Media Laws back in play

Staff Writer

Following the failure of Labor's media law overhaul package to gain support in Canberra two months ago, there is speculation that the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has amended the package to take to the election.

For the radio industry, a key element of the package, as it was previously, was the removal of the '75% reach' rule placing a ceiling on the number of television stations that one operator can control.

Removal of this paved the way for a number of scenario's to occur.

This included what was the highly likely merger of Southern Cross Media with the Nine Network, and a potential takeover of Prime Media by Seven West Media.

Each would have resulted in significant changes in Australian radio ownership.

Speaking to Sky News, Senator Conroy said;

"We are having discussions among ourselves about what to take forward to the election. We have to reconsider all of the options, reconsider what we think we can achieve, and that's what I'm talking to my colleagues about at the moment."

A controversial component of Senator Conroy's legislation was the establishment of a public interest media advocate, appointed by him, to apply a 'public interest test' to limit media ownership concentration.

Opposition Communications Spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has been strongly critical of this;

"Labor's media regulation package was a classic example of Conrovian over-reach and mismanagement. Labor do not understand the importance of free speech and the primary role an independent media plays in our democracy," 

Senator Conroy will be presented with his committee's report on the policy and potential amendments this week.


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