Melbourne Exhibition Centre
7 October 2016
Well, thank you very much, Joan. As I came up on
stage, Joan said, ‘oh good, I’m glad you’re here, I wasn’t sure if you
were actually here'. So it’s a relief for us all.
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning, it’s fabulous to
be here with you in person this year. Can I particularly acknowledge Adam and
Joan and the other members of the board. We had a good chance yesterday to
catch up and go through a range of issues. And I really appreciated that
opportunity. Can I also acknowledge just how inclusive this conference is, that
there are even people from my own broadcasters here today, ABC and SBS,
wherever you are, wave, say hello. So great to see you here as
A couple of conferences back I shared with you that I
did, once upon a time, have in prospect
a glittering career in radio which was cruelly cut down.
When I was a university student in
the mid-1980s, I took myself along to
2UE in North Sydney for a bit of work experience. And the
Lamb family still owned the station then so I had a chat to John
Condie and I had a chat to Rod Spargo who was the
station general manager.
And I was really excited at the prospect of working in
radio, and Rod Spargo said to me, ‘son if every fibre of your being doesn’t
want to rip the microphone out of the hand of the guy who’s currently on air
then radio’s not for you.’ John Condie then said
to me, ‘Mitch you seem like a thoughtful young man, why
don’t you go and do something useful with your life, forget radio.’
Now, I thought I had done something useful with
my life, I thought I’d made the right call, but I realised over the last week
that I’d been very wrong. Now some of you may have seen or heard about an
election campaign diary written by Mark Di Stefano
from Buzzfeed. And he made an observation about me in that, he said
that I had the head of a Wallace and Gromit character. Now, I know you’re a bit
nervous, you’re not sure whether to laugh or not. But anyway feel free.
This of course was Mark’s way of saying that I have a head
for radio; that I missed my calling and I have indeed denied the Australia
radio audience the opportunity to "switch to Mitch". But
anyway, there you have it.
But, friends, we’re gathered here today to reflect on the
industry, on its challenges and on its fantastic opportunities. But before we
discuss some of those challenges, particularly in the regulatory space, I just
want to focus for a moment on how the industry is positioned.
First, I want to make it absolutely clear that the
Government has the strong view that commercial radio in Australia has a strong,
long and vibrant future in front of it. Radio is a very special medium. It
connects in a way unlike any other. It’s immediate, it’s often
interactive, it’s spontaneous and it’s ever present. And as a Victorian it’s
hard to imagine Melbourne’s airwaves without the likes of Mitchell and
And I’ve got to say, as a politician, it always pays to
make time to be on radio, to talk to the presenters and
journalists, because you never know, one of them may end up being a Senator. A
shout out to Derryn.
Like all media, radio is operating in a
challenging environment. We talk a lot
about disruption. I think perhaps, t'was ever thus.
But that is the environment in which all of you are deployed. And that is
not going to change.
Radio has been pretty resilient in the face of challenges. While TV’s share of the national
advertising pie has dropped form 33% to 28% over the past decade, the
newspaper stake as fallen from 38% to 13%, while radio's share has
declined only modestly, from 9% to 8%. 2015-16 marked the fourth consecutive
year of revenue growth and that’s not something that can be said for other
established sectors in media.
they say, revenue follows ratings, and metro radio audiences were up by 1.8% in
2015 and 6.2% over the past two years.
Commercial radio is clearly holding its ground, and
these figures are a testament to the work of everyone in this room. But,
as the fundamentals are changing so rapidly, holding ground and growing
will continue to demand more of broadcasters. It will require the businesses
to be ever more innovative and responsive to changes in audience demand and
listening patterns. Part of the responsibility, of course, rests
with government. We’ve got to make sure that our media laws allow
broadcasters to get on with business, and I’ll talk a
little more about that shortly.
One of the good things that I think has happened in the
industry is that CRA has expanded its rating surveys from four key
regional centres to over twenty regional centres. The aim obviously is to
investigate radio’s reach outside of the capital cities, and this is important
given that a third of our population live in regional areas. We’ve got over 200
commercial stations in regional Australia and these surveys are really going to
help the stations better understand their audiences.
While on the subject of regional stations, this year the
Government received and supported the industry’s proposal to convert a number
of regional commercial radio services from AM to FM. Earlier this year I asked
ACMA to give priority to the planning work necessary to enable this conversion
and I am advised that work is progressing well, perhaps not quite as quickly as
the industry would hope, but the planning is well advanced for
licence areas that present relatively few problems. And a series of pilot
studies are in the pipeline for some of the more complex markets.
Friends, new technologies and products also offer
fresh opportunities, and digital radio is perhaps the most
apparent example of this. Since its launch in 2009, 27% of Australians who
live in mainland state capital cities now listen to digital radio,
and that’s a cumulative weekly audience of 3.6 million people.
The Government is also facilitating the rollout of digital
radio in regional Australia, something that CRA has been heavily involved
with. You would know that last year, government released the digital radio
report which considered the regulatory framework for digital radio as well as
the arrangements required to facilitate the rollout of digital radio in
regional areas, of course where it’s economically feasible to do
so. A key recommendation from the report was the establishment of a
digital radio planning committee for regional Australia and I
commend CRA for its active participation on the committee. The
committee has recently recommended to ACMA the planning principles for the
rollout of the digital radio services and while its principles are a matter for
ACMA to consider, I really do recognise and welcome the spirit of
cooperation and compromise where necessary for their development.
Accompanying the advent of digital radio is of
course the advent of new ways to listen to radio and the
corresponding new consumer habits. Digital radio devices are increasing in
popularity. In 2015 the number of cars fitted with digital radio tripled, with
over a quarter of new vehicles sold last year fitted with digital radio.
CRA does continue to innovate in the digital space,
partnering with LG Electronics to launch a new phone with a tuner embedded in
the device so that consumers don’t need to use data to listen. Social
media is also a huge area of growth for radio with one in five people who
follow radio stations on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram actively liking and
sharing their content.
If you cast your minds back 20 odd years or so ago it would
have been difficult I think for any of us to predict the impact that the
internet would have on the media landscape.
Rapid developments in technology are driving seismic shifts
in how we all consume our media and the key focus that we have as a government
is to ensure that our media laws reflect the reality of
Now, we are pressing on with reform in this space and today
I’d like to highlight two of our priority areas.
The 2016-17 budget, as Joan
touched on earlier, included a measure to
reduce broadcast licence fees by 25%. This decision recognises the
fact that the media landscape for radio, for TV, has changed
dramatically since those licence fees were first introduced in the mid-1950s.
The digital environment is increasing competition for
audiences, for advertising dollars. It's placing increasing financial pressure
on our commercial broadcasters whose main competitors pay no licence
Recently, we introduced legislation to give effect to
the 25% reduction in licence fees and with the cooperation of other
parties in the Senate I expect that will pass before the end of the year. The
25% cut will provide TV and radio sectors with an estimated net
financial boost of $163 million over the next four years.
I am aware, obviously, that the industry is seeking further
reductions in licence fees and this is under active
consideration together with other reforms including spectrum
Now, I know that some of you fear that any changes to their
licence fees and spectrum pricing could mean that you end up paying the same or
more to government overall. But, I want to reassure you that should
we be making changes to licence fees and spectrum pricing, the objective would
be that licensees in net terms are better off. So if we make changes that
would be the objective.
The changes to licence fees that we announced in
the budget go hand in hand with measures which are contained in our media
reform bill which is also before the parliament. That package, as you
know, seeks to repeal media control rules, so that’s the 75% audience reach
rule and the 2 out of 3 rule. I’m hopeful that these reforms can be considered
and passed into law as expeditiously as possible.
As a whole, the government reform agenda aims to make
sure that our media laws can adapt, change and reflect the world that we
currently live in today. Can recognise changes in technology and the changes in
consumer habits. But importantly, to give traditional media companies the
flexibility to compete and to adapt in a changing world.
Friends, we do have a bit of work to do. To
do together. I look forward to working with you over
the years ahead, to make sure that the industry continues to be
prosperous, continues to be vibrant, that you are in a
position to give audiences what they want. Thank you for the
opportunity to be with you today and also to catch up with
the board yesterday. And it gives me great pleasure to formally
declare the conference open.