Turnbull recommends ownership law upheaval

Staff Writer

It has been revealed late this afternoon that the Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has recommended making sweeping policy changes to media ownership laws.

The policy recommendation, delivered to the Prime Minister this week, reportedly recommends the scrapping of the ‘two out of three’ rule, and the ‘reach’ rule. 

The result of such a change would be the removal of the restriction on a media company from controlling more than two out of three platforms in any market; of radio, television and newspaper.

This rule has prevented numerous mergers from being considered, and resulted in the divestment of a number of regional licenses by Southern Cross Austereo a few years ago, and most recently has resulted in the forced divestment (yet to happen) of 4LM Mt Isa by Macquarie Radio.

The “reach rule” has a more pronounced impact on television than radio, and has prevented mergers such as Seven West Media and Prime Media for example, or Southern Cross Ten with Channel Ten. This rule prevents any network from broadcasting to more than 75% of the population.

The news of the recommendation comes after the Minister was attacked by Prime Media Chairman John Hartigan, who commented earlier in the week saying;

“There is a serious imbalance in the market, with some media companies able to secure unfettered, unregulated and unrestricted access to Australian television audiences and advertisers via the internet.

I cannot understand how he can turn a blind eye to the abuse of market power that’s going on right under his nose. When one media CEO claimed recently that regional broadcasting could shortly be irrelevant, Turnbull chose to stay mute. It seems to me that the Minister isn’t particularly interested in regional Australians and regional jobs.

If Turnbull is opposed to complacency and is seriously committed to entrepreneurship and innovation, then he needs to unshackle traditional media companies and abolish laws that hamper our capacity to compete.”

With the proposal now in the Prime Ministers office, should it receive his support it will be tabled in Cabinet, however even if it is supported in the House of Representatives, it will still require Senate approval. 

Watch this space, if these changes go through, there will be a flurry of activity in the coming 12-months.

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