Green light for media reforms
THE Turnbull Government has sealed a major victory after winning support for the most significant media reforms in more than a decade.
The Senate crossbench last night approved a package overhauling outdated media laws after Nick Xenophon successfully extracted a $60.4 million “regional and small publishers jobs and innovation package”.
Communications Minister Mitch Fifield gained the votes of the three NXT senators late on Wednesday night having already won the backing from the four One Nation senators, Derryn Hinch, Lucy Gichuhi and David Leyonhjelm.
The changes will abolish the two-out-of-three ownership rule and the 75 per cent audience reach rule that the media industry has blamed for creating an uneven playing field against online rivals.
Part of Senator Xenophon’s deal includes a consumer watchdog probe into the role of Google and Facebook.
Senator Xenophon said Parliament “cannot ignore the pressures” media companies face when up against global tech giants.
Broadcasting licence fees will also be abolished and changes made to the anti-siphoning list, while more restrictions will be placed on gambling advertising during live sporting events.
The Xenophon deal will provide a financial boost to regional and small publishers through grants, scholarships and a cadetship program.
It features a three-year, $50 million innovation fund for regional and small publishers.
Senator Fifield said the reforms would give media outlets a “shot in the arm” and a “fighting chance” at survival.
“We don’t always agree with what those in the gallery will write and broadcast and post and blog,” Senator Fifield said. “Nevertheless, we do recognise that what they do is an important underpinning for our democracy.’’