AM with Sabra Lane
ABC Studio Canberra
29 August 2017
number one Network CBA swooped in the buy the troubled Ten Network yesterday it
was believed that Lachlan Murdoch and the WIN Corporation Executive Chairman Bruce
Gordon were the front runners to claim it.
But both men have been thwarted by existing media rules preventing each
from owning the network. The Federal
Government have been working to try and changes to those rules, and in a touch
of irony, the delay in securing that support in the Senate gave CBS the time it
needed to organise it’s successful bid.
To discuss it
we are joined by Senator Mitch Fifield the Communications and Arts
Minister. Thank you and good morning,
welcome to AM.
Where you surprised by CBS’
decision to buy Ten?
Well these are ultimately matters
for the receivers and administrators of the Ten Network. And what they are looking to do is to ensure
there is a network that is stable, secure, broadcasting and employing. So I welcome that.
You welcome it but did it surprise
you? It seemed to come out of
nowhere. People were being told that Mr Lachlan
Murdoch and Mr Gordon were the only front runners around.
Well I never cease to be surprised
in the media environment. But look what
we want to see are good, strong Australian media organisations. And that’s what our media reform package is
all about. And I have got to say it was a
peculiar sight yesterday, Bill Shorten basically breaking a hamstring to jump
on board the receivers and administrator announcement, searching for some
strange justification for why he isn’t supporting our media reform package. It’s still needed.
We will get to the reform package
in a tick. But in the lead up did you
hear from Mr Murdoch and Mr Gordon about their bid?
The bids are matters for the
parties concerned and for the receivers and administrators. I am someone who sits back from these things
and I let the market do its job.
And they didn’t attempt to speak
to you or your office?
There was no direct approach to
me. There may well have been to other
elements of my portfolio.
No, CBS didn’t approach me either.
The CBS deal is
still subject to the Foreign Investment Review Board giving its approval. Do you anticipate that there will be any
problems with that?
I make it a
point not to comment on possible regulatory processes. There is obviously also shareholder approval
that’s required. But these things will
go through their usual processes.
leader Bill Shorten says that this shows that the two out of three rule, that
the Government wants to abolish, doesn’t need to go. This is the rule that you have been trying to
get support for. And the rule is that
you can’t own more than two of three regulated media in one licence area. You can’t own TV, radio and newspaper for
example. Does he have a point?
No, he doesn’t
have a point. And this was never a media
reform package that was about one network.
This is a comprehensive package.
This just isn’t about changing some of our media ownership laws. It is also about giving tax cuts in the form
of licence fee relief to commercial radio and TV. It’s about giving Australian media
organisations more options in terms of how they can configure themselves to
better support their viability.
Shorten is essentially saying that the views of Seven, Nine, Ten, Win, Prime,
Southern Cross Austereo, News Limited, Fairfax, Commercial Radio Australia,
ASTRA, Foxtel and Free TV count for nothing.
They are all the Australian media organisations that are calling for the
passage of our media reform legislation.
Bill Shorten should get on board.
If he cares about strong Australian media voices, then he will support
everything else that the Government has put forward in terms of media
reform. Are you now going to try and
split the Bill and get it passed through the Senate? Get passed what you can?
Labor say that,
but look at the facts. In the House of
Representatives the Australian Labor Party voted against the entire
package. The lot. They voted against it at the second reading
stage. They voted against it at the
third reading stage. Don’t listen to
what Labor say, look at what Labor do.
And at every point Labor has opposed this media reform package lock,
stock and barrel. We want to see good,
strong Australian media voices. Now
every Australian media organisation supports this package. And there is a reason for it. They are challenged by the over the top
providers, by the Netflix, by the Facebooks.
They have never been under greater challenge. We want to give them a fighting chance. We want to give them a shot in the arm. Bill Shorten has no policy.
You have got
One Nation across the line with these reforms.
You are still talking to Nick Xenophon.
Again are you going to let the perfect be the enemy of the good? Are you
going to hive it off and get through what you can?
Xenophon isn’t asking us to hive anything off this package. Nick wants to look at adding some things to
this package. We have had good and
constructive discussions with the Senate crossbench. They have been willing to engage. That is contrast to the Australian Labor
Party who have essentially said talk to the hand.
You have said
that you want to see good Australia voices here, but I mean CBS its American
giant. Are you sad in one way that
Lachlan Murdoch, I mean he is an American citizen now, but with Australian
ties, that he and Bruce Gordon are missing out here?
Well I am
proprietor agnostic. What I want to do
is give our Australian domestic media organisations the greatest range of options
when it comes to dance partners. If we
had passed this media reform package, then there would be a whole range of
dance partners for Australian media organisations to combine with. And that is what I want to see, is more
options. A viable Australian media
industry. And journalists employed. That is good for our democracy.
On a chamber
related matter. There are claims this
morning that Katy Gallagher is entitled to Ecuadorian citizen because her
mother was born there. Labor says it is
wrong. Will the Government pursue this?
Well it is
incumbent on each Member and Senator to make sure that they are in accord with
Australia electoral law and with the Constitution. Where there have been circumstances on our
side, where there have been some issues, we have done the right thing and we
have referred that to the High Court.
The High Court will undertake its deliberations. We will wait and see what they are. But ultimately this is a matter for Senator
Minister thank you
for joining AM this morning.