RN Drive with Raf Epstein
Parliament House, Canberra
14 September 2017
E & OE
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t get too much credit for it, but he has
landed two big fish this year. The first was the education reforms, under
Education Minister Simon Birmingham. And today, just in the last hour,
less than an hour ago. The Communications Minister Mitch Fifield landed
the media reform package, it changes drastically who can own what in this
country. And Senator Mitch Fifield joins us on the phone. Senator congratulations
first of all.
Labor Party are convinced this is a disaster for media diversity. They
have got a point don’t they? If anybody can own whatever they like,
there’s going to be fewer owners, fewer voices.
that’s not the case. We still have important diversity protections.
We have something called the five/four rule, which means you have to have
five independent media voices in metro areas, and four in the regions.
have still got the one to a market TV rule, where you can only have one TV
licence in a market. And we still have the two to a market radio
rule, which means you can only have two radio licences in the one market.
means the Murdoch’s can buy a TV station, if they find one at the right price.
I’m someone who is proprietor agnostic. What I am all about and what this
package is all about is ensuring that we have good strong Australian media
voices. And if you free up, a little bit, the media control laws that
were drafted in the 1980’s before the internet existed, you give the
opportunity to Australian media companies to configure themselves in ways
to best support their viability.
know you say you are media proprietor agnostic, you’d be totally happy if the
Murdoch’s picked up more media in this country?
is not a straight forward answer to a question like that Raf.
if you’re agnostic you don’t attach value to who owns it.
are two things here. One is we absolutely recognise the importance
of diversity. Which is why we still have those three diversity rules
which I mentioned. We still have the ACCC’s competition ruler, which
needs to be run over any proposition. But what we wanted to do was
free up a little bit the archaic media rules of the 1980s.
all the media companies wanted that?
because Australian media companies don’t want to go out backwards. They
want to be viable, and if you have good strong viable Australian media
companies, it means that they are in a much better position to employ journalists and to
do the important work that they do.
there is now no law, and there is no regulator that would stop the Murdoch’s
buying a TV station. So if I could ask again. Would you be
happy if the Murdoch’s picked up another major media institution in this
I say, I am proprietor agnostic. But there is not a simple answer to your
question because every merger proposition has got to be looked at against those
diversity rules, those remaining diversity rules that I mentioned. But
you have the interesting situation where every media organisation in the
country is backing these changes. Seven, Nine, Ten, Win, Prime, Southern
Cross Austereo, Fairfax and News Limited. These guys aren’t often on the
one page, but they are, because they recognise that this is a challenged
industry. You’ve got the Googles, you’ve got the Facebooks, you’ve got
the online providers and we want to give them a fighting chance. And this
is what this package does.
I ask a selfish question, let’s talk about the ABC. The One Nation
Party want a competitive neutrality review on this organisation. The
example I have been giving is the ABC right now purchases google result space.
You type in a news entry, you get the news page from the ABC promoted to
the top of your search results. Are you going to give them that
review, who will do it?
haven’t yet worked out who will undertake that review. But you’re right,
we have announced that we will have, the quaintly termed competitive neutrality
review. And that’s just a fancy way of saying that this is an opportunity to
look at whether the ABC and SBS are using their status as Government
entities in a way that isn’t appropriate when you talk about
you give me a definition of what wouldn’t be appropriate?
there’s a range of different things, and there are commercial organisations who
have raised some concerns. Now the ABC and SBS have their own
perspectives on these matters. So what we are going to have is an inquiry where
these things can be ventilated.
you give me a value judgement on the search result, that precise example?
Is it inappropriate for the ABC to spend money on that?
won’t give you a value judgement. The ABC say it is appropriate. The
commercial organisations say it is not. So we are going to have
an inquiry to address these and many other issues which are raised. And
we shouldn’t be shy about addressing these matters when they come forward.
I love talking about the ABC. Is it the same as, right now, I’m stealing
advertising dollars from every commercial radio station in the country,
because there are people listening to this station, and not a commercial radio
station. Is that in any way of substance different to the ABC
promoting ourselves on Google?
have got a right as a broadcaster to promote your programs. I don’t think
anyone would say that the ABC shouldn’t have an opportunity to do that.
I am actually stealing audience aren’t I. I mean if we weren’t here there
would be a greater audience, they could charge their advertisers more. So
is that, just the mere existence of the ABC radio stations around the
country, there is a few of them, is that any different in substance to, for
example, paying the Google search results?
the ABC is here. It is going to stay here. That is not going to
change and that is not in scope. What is in scope are the range of
issues, I guess around the edges, that commercial broadcasters have raised.
They will have an opportunity to put their views forward, as will the
one more on the ABC. Can you actually force the ABC to reveal everyone’s
salary? Doesn’t that breach The Privacy Act? I am not putting
a valued judgement on it. Would you not need to change The Privacy Act to
force the ABC to reveal big time presenters wages.
will be talking to the ABC about how they might do this and it could well
require legislation. But they’re things we will be exploring.
in your office has done the work. You have got to change The Privacy Act
Well Raf we
will be exploring those. And a number of the ABC measures that we
have announced will require legislation and we will be producing
legislation in the future.
we ever going to see the paperwork that justifies giving Fox
Sports $30 million for women’s sport? You are giving them
taxpayer money so they can charge us to watch women’s sport.
there is paperwork. When you have cabinet submissions in the context of
the Budget of course there is paperwork that supports the consideration by
the Government on those matters.
but we still have no idea why they were given the money.
Well Raf as
I think we have discussed before, we wanted to ensure that women’s sport
continued to have good exposure, good coverage, better coverage. And in
the context of our media reform package we thought that was something that was
for your time.
to talk Raf.
Mitch Fifield he is Malcolm Turnbull’s Communications Minister. That
is two big packages of reforms that Malcolm Turnbull has landed this year.