PVO NewsDay with Peter van Onselen
Sky News Studio Canberra
29 August 2017
E & OE
American broadcaster CBS will have
to convince creditors, courts and indeed the Foreign Investment Review Board
that its bid for Network 10 is the best deal for the company, and indeed for
Australia. The US broadcasting giant
announced it has reached a deal to acquire Ten’s business and assets after the
network went into receivership. Media analysts
believe that, in the short term at least, it will be business as usual for
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A lot of the content that we
already see on Ten, things like NCIS for instance, will carry on being there
because it already has that in common with CBS in the US. I suppose one gradual change that you may see
it if you look at CBS’s content, it probably skews slightly older in the US, so
in time we might see more feed grow.
The deal came as a bit of a surprise
it has to be said, with many expecting the Australian media moguls Lachlan
Murdoch and Bruce Gordon were more likely to snap up the network. CBS has also announced that it will bring its
subscription on demand video service to Australia. And to discuss this as well as wider media
reform I am joined now by the Communications Minister, Senator Mitch Fifield
live from Canberra. Senator thanks very
much for your company. I know there is
only so much you can say obviously in specifics in terms of Channel Ten because
it is an ongoing transaction. But I
guess the big question that people are wondering about is what, if any, are the
avenues by which this deal has been announced might not actually become a
deal. Is the main one the challenge Foreign
Investment Review Board?
receivers and administrators have said that they have accepted the offer by
CBS. Obviously this is still subject to
shareholder approval. And there could
well be a range of regulatory processes.
And it is my practice not to comment on prospective regulatory
processes. But I welcome any proposition
that will see the Ten Network stable, secure, broadcasting and employing
But if you
welcome any outcome that can lead to that, that would mean, I guess by
definition, that you welcome the CBS outcome.
Irrespective of it being a foreign business stepping in, because it has
done exactly what you are out to welcome.
The Ten Network
wants stability, they want security. All
of the staff - the journalists, the production people, the people in sales and
marketing - at the Ten Network, want surety. And just referencing the media
reform package that the Government has in the Parliament, that’s all about
wanting to support the long term viability of domestic Australian media
organisations. So the sooner that the
Ten Network can get onto a footing where they know what their future will be,
Alright and I
want to get into the wider media reforms in some detail in a moment. Just one last one on Channel Ten, are there
any risks, I know that there are some regulatory rules that preclude some risks. But do you have any concerns about an
American owned company stepping in and taking over one of our three free to air
broadcasters in relation to the balance between local content and overseas
content. As I say I know there are
already rules that mandate a certain amount of local content, but does that
give you pause for thought.
owns Australian TV stations is subject to local content requirements. And it’s interesting to observe that the
highest rating programs across the networks tend to be Australian
programs. So I think whoever owns Network
Ten, we can be assured that the regulatory arrangements that mandate certain
local content requirements will still be there, and still be in force. And the evidence is that Australians love and
want to tune into Australian product.
Now there is no
secret in the fact that Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon both were looking at
buying Channel Ten between them in varying forms, and the two elements of media
reform that were most likely were required for that to happen were changes to
the reach rule, the 75% reach rule as well as the two out of three. That affected each one of them in turn if you
like. How important is that you hold the
industry together Senator in favour of the broad arching reforms. And how likely is it that they will stay
together now that the Ten sale, or assuming that the Ten sale goes through.
industry, nor the government, have ever seen this media reform package as about
the Ten Network. Yes the Ten Network
have been at the forefront of arguing for media reform. But, then again, so has Seven, Nine, WIN, Prime,
Southern Cross Austereo, Fairfax and News Limited for that matter. So this package has never been about one
network. All the reasons that we need
media reform are as valid today as they were yesterday, and the day before.
question Senator, if I could just jump in, put differently the question is are
you certain that these big players who have been supporters of media reform, unanimously
so in the mainstream media, will all continue to be supporters of it once
Channel Ten is purchased by CBS. Or does
self-interest take one or two of them out and then we land in that position we
were with the previous package, is that it is like herding cats to get the
media together on media reform.
media organisations are still in favour of getting rid of the two out of three
rule. They are still in favour of
getting rid of the 75% audience reach rule.
They are still in favour of effective tax cuts in the form of licence
fee reductions for commercial radio and commercial TV. They are still in favour of sensible modernisation
of the anti-siphoning arrangements. There
is a lot in this package for the industry as a whole. And the industry still want it to pass.
Alright so the
industry still want the package, what about the politicians. Do you still have concerns that, for example,
Senator Xenophon will be less likely to give in, in some areas as will One
Nation potentially now that they don’t have the, if you like emergency settings,
of trying to get it done in time for a possible takeover of Channel Ten.
colleagues that I have been dealing with have always recognised that the media
reform package is something that is important in the short, the medium and the long
term. As you referenced One Nation, we have agreement with them to support the
package. I am still having good
discussions with Nick Xenophon who recognises the need for these reforms.
But Peter the
most disappointing thing in all of this has been the Australian Labor
Party. From the outset they have opposed
this media reform package. They pay lip
service to some elements of the package.
But in the House of Representatives they voted against the package in
its entirety. So I always say, don’t listen to what Bill Shorten says, look at
what he does.
But yesterday was
truly bizarre, Bill Shorten cited the announcement by the administrators and
receivers in relation to Channel Ten as a reason why the media reform package
is no longer needed. The rest of the
media sector are still facing challenges.
Those haven’t gone away. And what
they tell me, day after day, is that they want the greatest flexibility
possible to choose who it is that they combine with, to look at the dance
partners who they might be able to get together with to improve the viability
of their businesses. And our proposed media
ownership changes are intended to give a bit more flexibility in that regard.
Well just on
that, let’s burrow into that a little bit.
Bill Shorten, as you say yesterday, his argument seemed to be look
greater diversity now in the Australian media with CBS coming in. And ‘proof here’ that there isn’t the challenge
that the Government would like to suggest for the media sector, because look
you have another party that has bought into Channel Ten without all those changes
being required in relation to media reforms.
Is your point
Senator basically when you look at the growth and the challenges in disruption
for all the other media challenges, they are still there. So those other organisations continue to be
financially challenged, indeed to be challenged by the disruptors in the
industry. Is that your answer to Bill
Bill Shorten is the best friend that Google and Facebook and Netflix have
had. Now none of us have an issue with
those particular businesses. But, it’s a
fact that they are competing with Australian media organisations of long
standing. What the Government wants to
do is to give Australian media organisations a fighting change, and a shot in
the arm to level the playing field for this vigorous competition. Bill Shorten’ s answer is “neh, well I don’t
really care”. He does not have an
interest in strong Australian media voices.
This Government does. And that’s
what our package is all about.
And just one
final one for you if I can Senator. Any
chance from here that the package is more likely now to be broken up. I remember you have been very resolute on
this, very strong. It’s the whole thing or
its nothing, it goes as one, that is why the media sector supports it. Post the Ten deal, that is not the be all and
end all of media reform, I couldn’t agree with you more on that versus what
Labor was saying yesterday. But what
about the idea that you might break up the package now? Any chance of that?
It’s a comprehensive package. It enjoys the support of the entire media industry. I am not looking to slice it up. And, indeed, crossbench colleagues, who I
have had good discussions with, they are not asking for things to be hived off
it from it. They have some ideas about
some additional things. So look, I’m open to additions, but I am not in the business
of slicing this package up.
Senator Mitch Fifield thanks we appreciate
you joining us. Thanks for your company
Thanks very much Peter.