TRANSCRIPT - 2GB with Ross Greenwood
1 March 2016
E & OE
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has just stepped out of the Senate
chamber to have a chat to us about the change in the media ownership laws that
have been put in place today. They’re going to enter the Parliament in the next
week or so, and the Government will seek to get them through as quickly as
not been changed for a long, long time and it’s basically allowing a single
media owner to now be able to own different forms of media in one particular
region. The Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is on the line right now,
many thanks for your time Senator.
Good to be
with you, Ross.
So can you
broadly explain why it is these rules needed to be changed?
media laws that we have at the moment were really crafted in – and for – an
analogue world. They simply don’t reflect the changes in technology. They don’t
reflect the change in consumer choice.
means that consumers have so many new avenues of media, so many new avenues of
news. Also, these rules, as well as not reflecting that, are increasingly
constraining media organisations from being able to configure themselves in the
way that best suits their business and best suits their consumers.
Just to give
you one example, the 75% audience ‘reach rule’ which prohibits a group of TV
licences being controlled by an individual having more than 75% of the
Australian audience. That’s completely meaningless now because we have a number
of free to air TV networks who are streaming – which means that they have 100%
reach. So that rule just doesn’t make sense today.
let’s just go to the big players in this market – we’re talking here Rupert
Murdoch, Kerry Stokes, they didn’t want these changes. They were very adamant they
did not want and need these changes at this stage. Is the Government really,
almost biting the hand that sort of can help to feed them in some ways, by
defying the wishes of such powerful media tycoons?
Well Ross I
think it’d be fair to say that there are varying degrees of enthusiasm amongst
the different media organisations for the changes that we’re proposing. What is
common amongst media organisations I think is a recognition that the media
rules are increasingly becoming redundant and don’t reflect the world that we
live in. Where media organisations have different views – there are some who
think this is a good start, there are others who think that this really doesn’t
go far enough.
So what we’re
putting forward are the abolition of the 75% ‘reach rule’, the abolition of the
‘2 out of 3 rule’ which prevents an individual or group having more than two
out of three of the regulated platforms.
So, just to
pick you up here, that technically would mean that, say, News Corporation could
go and buy channel 10 tomorrow if it wanted to? Once passed through the
Parliament of course?
impediment would be removed. Obviously there’s still the ACCC hoops to go
So Nine could
go out and buy Southern Cross or buy WIN, which has always been mooted around
the place, it could even be that Fairfax and Nine get together? So all these
types of mergers could certainly come as a result of the changes that being
be a range of different combinations. Even some that we haven’t thought of. But
we’ve put forward ‘2 out of 3’. We’ve put forward ‘reach’. Because we think
that these are changes which can enjoy the support of the Parliament.
OK where does
the likes of Google Netflix, all these types of organisations, where do they
fit in all of this? Because they seem to have almost fallen through the cracks
of some of the communication/media ownership laws in the past?
over-the-top providers, as they’re sometimes termed, aren’t subject to any of
these media laws which is part of what is rendering them increasingly
So what we’ve
announced today is significant reform. That’s not to say that there will not be
further reform. I think in the world that we live in, media laws need to be
under constant review.
But I should
point out that understandably in regional areas where you’re talking about
potential mergers and changes in media law, country people can be a bit nervous
asking, “What about our local news content?”
thing, isn’t it?
And we’ve got some new and higher protections for local news content, should
there be what we call a ‘trigger event’, occasioned by a reconfiguration of
mechanically how this is going to work – I understand the Bill is going to be
put into the House of Reps on Wednesday this week, what happens to it after
Well I will
also refer the legislation to the Senate Communications and Environment
Committee for inquiry.
How long will
We don’t have
many sitting weeks before the Budget, so it’ll probably be about a five or six
week inquiry. Then through that time the legislation will have gone through the
House of Representatives and we’ll have the opportunity to consider it in the
So will it
actually get through the Parliament before that double dissolution date of July
Well I don’t
know Ross when the election will be, but I am aiming to have the legislation
through the Parliament before the scheduled election.
Did you see
what I did there Mitch?
I did. I
didn’t fall for it Ross. It’s easy not to when you don’t know when the election
actually will be.