Turnbull says ‘change is coming’
There may be agreement on changes to media ownership reforms as early as Christmas, if Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has his way, according to a piece in The Australian.
Turnbull has stated previously that he is 'sympathetic' to reforming ownership regulations; specifically around the 'reach rule' which prevents metropolitan television networks from owning regional television.
The other regulation being speculated about being reformed, is the '2 out of 3' rule, which prevents a single entity owning more than two of three (radio, television and newspaper) in a single market.
“We’re just working through a period of consultation and we hope to come to a landing on any changes to ownership-related issues by the end of the year", Turnbull told The Australian.
Earlier in March Turnbull held a 'media advisory council' meeting with high-level CEO's in the industry to seek input on what they believed are the greatest challenges the sector faces, he has now confirmed there will be a second meeting in September.
It is widely expected that the 'reach rule' will be the first reform, which would clear the path for a raft of movement in the sector:
- Network TEN could combine with Southern Cross Media.
- Or, Network TEN could acquire Nova Entertainment.
- Nine could acquire WIN (television and radio).
- Seven could acquire Prime Media
- Fairfax Media are believed to have explored potential deals with both Nine and Seven.
And a myriad of other scenarios are possible.
The most vocal opponent of the reach rule changing is Seven West Media, whose CEO Tim Worner is on the record as saying that they do not believe it should happen; despite it clearing the path for Seven to acquire their regional affiliate Prime Media.
Turnbull also commented that with Lachlan Murdoch now non-executive co-chairman of News Corporation, that should News acquire Network TEN, he would be comfortable with that as long as Murdoch sold Nova Entertainment.
He would have the power to force this given the test applied is whether competition would be lessened by any merger, and Turnbull believes the ACCC is the best-placed to make those decisions.
“The media industry loves to get itself excited about this prospect, but there is nothing in the broadcasting legislation to stop News buying Ten now as long as Lachlan (Murdoch’s) radio stations weren’t part of the package.
“That’s all feasible, but the issue for that transaction would be an ACCC issue. By the way, no one at News has ever expressed that they have the slightest interest in doing it.”
Irrespective of what deals may or may not eventuate, it appears that the media landscape will change significantly in the next 18 months.
Read the full piece by Darren Davidson in The Australian.