Transcript - Ross Greenwood Money News > Mitch Fifield, Liberal Senator for Victoria

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01-June-2017

Ross Greenwood Money News

Canberra
31 May 2017

6:34pm

Text Box: Subject: Media reform

E & OE

GREENWOOD

Right now in Parliament House Canberra 25 media bosses are attending a summit.   Now this summit is a show of support to lobby the Senate to pass the Federal Government’s media law reforms. And they’re big.  Now on the line right now the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield who has been the architect of this legislation to go through our Parliament.  And indeed has been the person who has effectively herded the cats.  Carolled the chickens.  Whatever you might want to call it.  But I tell you media company bosses are very dispirit and independent individuals.  And to actually get them all in the one room at the one time is some achievement.  He’s on the line now, many thanks for your time Mitch.

FIFIELD

Good to be with you Ross.

GREENWOOD

Alright so they have all come together willingly, and together as a block.  They are going to be having a summit.  It is going to be hosted by David Koch from the Seven Network.  The Chief Operating Officer of this network Macquarie Media, Adam Lang will be there.  The Chief Executive of Fairfax.  The Chief Executive of Seven West Media, Tim Worner.  And also Foxtel Chief Executive Peter Tonagh.  And the Executive Chair of News Corporation Michael Miller.  Now I have got to say to you Mitch, normally they wouldn’t be seen in the same room together.

FIFIELD

Well it’s a testament I think to the leaders of the Australian media sector that they have looked beyond their own legitimate organisational interests, to the broader health and wellbeing of the Australian media industry.

GREENWOOD

OK just explain, because in the past, when there has been this type of legislation suggested.  Many people sensibly said that the media ownership rules in Australia were outdated.    And this is a result of the emergence of Facebook and Google as, even in Australia, the biggest media players in town.  But the fact of the matter is they often have their own particular quirks as to why they would not come and cooperate with their other competitors.  I am thinking about say, in the past it might have been Seven concerned about other television stations getting an advantage.  Or News Corporation not happy about some aspect of it.  This has happened in the past.  Now there seems to be some sort of economic realsm about it.

FIFIELD

It’s a competitive and a commercial environment.  And you can understand, each organisation talking their own book.  But I think what the industry has recognised as a whole is that the challenges that they face are ones that they have in common.  And that the answer is to have a comprehensive package, in which no one will get everything they want, but everyone will get part of what they want.  And everyone will get something that helps to improve their viability.

GREENWOOD

Now the Labor Party is refusing to back one of the three reforms, also the Greens as well.  That is the two out of three rule.  Because it’s concerned it could weaken media diversity.  To explain to people.  In major media markets where, say for example in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra wherever.  You can only own two forms of media in that region, you can’t own three.  So two out of three, you could have radio and television.  Radio and newspaper.  Newspaper and television.  But you couldn’t own all three.

Do you think with that lack of backing from Labor and the Greens this has still has the ability to get through the Senate?

FIFIELD

Well what I have found with the current Senate crossbench is that they’re open to good propositions.  And we have achieved a lot through the current Senate.  So I am continuing those discussions with the Senate crossbench. 

But look there is every reason why the two out of three rule should go.  It made sense in an era before the Internet, as a mechanism of ensuring that you didn’t have too much concentration of media ownership, so that there was a maintenance of diversity.  But we have this thing called the Internet now.  We also will continue to have diversity protections in the form of maintaining the two to a market radio rule.  The one to a market TV rule. The five-four voices rule. Where you have to have five independent voices in metro areas.  And four independent voices in regional areas.  We are still going to have the ACCC running their ruler over things.  We are still going to have the ABC.  We are still going to have the SBS.

So what the sector is telling me is that they want more options when it comes to how they can configure themselves. So they are in the best position to know what is best for their viability.  We want to give them options.  We want to make sure we continue to have good, strong Australian media voices.

GREENWOOD

OK so just explain to me Pauline Hanson and One Nation.  Because Pauline Hanson has claimed that she will only look to these bills, and also any other bills going before our Parliament.  If there is a significant cut to the budget of the ABC.  So she is talking $600 million over the forward estimates.  So over four years $150 million per year.  That is around fifteen percent of the ABC’s budget. Is that something that will fly with the government?

FIFIELD

Well the ABC’s funding was in the budget before last, for the triennium, the three years.  That’s in order to give that organisation certainty.  What we say is that the range of legislative propositions that we have before the Senate we think should be looked at on their merits.  And I am happy to confirm that One Nation, only moments ago, issued a press release saying that they will be looking at legislation on its merits.

GREENWOOD

Which is a good thing.  Ok now take me to another aspect of this because you have still got the elephants in the room, these days being Google and Facebook especially.  You even have Amazon coming into the market, which has its own media play as well.  There are pressures coming into our local media sector as a result of the emergence of these new International technology players.  There is no doubt about that.  But do you believe if this were to pass through our Senate and through our Houses of Parliament, and become law.  Do you believe that these measures that you are suggesting will genuinely make the media sector more competitive?

FIFIELD

Absolutely.  The package is about helping the viability of Australian media.  And I have put to me from time to time, by colleagues in the Parliament that there are things that we should do in terms of copyright, that there are things that we should do in terms of tax law, that there are things that we should do in terms of content requirements for some of the over the top providers.  Colleagues can certainly put things to the government to consider.  But, there is something we can do right now to support the viability of Australian media and that is to support this package.

GREENWOOD

Well I have got to tell you.  There have been many Communications Ministers of the past, who have sought to do this, but who have failed for one reason or another.  From either politics inside their own parties, or indeed, politics between the individual media companies themselves.  Mitch Fifield, our Communications Minister has managed to get them all in the one room.  On the one page.  To try and get legislation through the Parliament.  The Senate is the key in all of this.  And in particular Pauline Hanson.  So that is where it sits right now at to Mitch Fifield we appreciate your time here on the program this evening.

FIFIELD

Good to be with you Ross.

[ENDS]