“More local content and innovation”: Commercial radio responds to media law changes

Yesterday’s passing in the Senate of the long-mooted broadcast reform bill has been met with great relief and anticipation by the commercial radio sector.

The bill won’t go to the House of Representatives until next month as Parliament is on break for four weeks from today, but given the Government’s one-seat majority, it is expected to pass through.

An initial response from Commercial Radio Australia chief executive officer Joan Warner is that it is a “positive outcome that will bring Australia’s media laws into the digital age and help ensure local media has a chance to compete, evolve and grow”.

“Radio broadcasters can now move ahead with much greater certainty and ability to invest in local content and innovation across areas such as digital radio, streaming and podcasting without the burden of broadcast licence fees,” she explained.

“We look forward to continuing to produce and promote the millions of hours of Australian content provided by Australian commercial radio each year.”

Broadcasters along with media watchers and the general public are still coming to terms with what the new landscape will mean.

For some, clauses as the two out of three and 75% audience reach media ownership rules could mean a concentration in ownership and less media voices.

But on the flipside, radio would argue, the removal of broadcasting licence fees (a saving of $130 million, in return for paying annual spectrum fees of $40 million) and the introduction a $60.4 million fund that will include scholarships for regional radio cadets, would allow the growth of the sector.

An important clause is that the ACCC will investigate the activities in this country of major digital companies as Facebook and Google which broadcasters complain are taking” billions of dollars” of ad revenue from them without paying tax.

The full impact of these will be discussed by radio, TV and newspaper CEOs at next month’s Radio Alive 2017 conference.

The main panel will be moderated by Daily Telegraph columnist Miranda Devine and will feature CEO of Nine Entertainment Hugh Marks, executive chair of News Corp Australasia Michael Miller, CEO of Southern Cross Austereo Grant Blackley and CEO of Fox Sports Patrick Delany.

The topic is also expected to be discussed in a Q&A panel session by Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, Shadow Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland and 3AW drive host Tom Elliott, to be hosted by ABC presenter Virginia Trioli.

Radio Alive 2017 will be held on Friday October 13 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, followed by the Australian Commercial Radio Awards on Saturday October 14.  Visit the website for more information.

In the meantime ABC radio and TV executives and staffers worried about One Nation’s demand to get its support the bill – that the broadcaster show more transparency and make public a list of all those earning over $200,000 a year – could breathe easier.

This was not included in the Senate’s final package and apparently will be discussed at a later time. But the word from the Canberra media gallery is that it’ll ultimately be headed off and finally drowned.

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