Me­dia shake-up in Aus­tralia?

The Phnom Penh Post - - BUSINESS -

CON­TRO­VER­SIAL changes to Aus­tralia’s me­dia laws neared agree­ment yes­ter­day in a deal likely to re­sult in sig­nif­i­cant con­cen­tra­tion of own­er­ship, but also a probe into the im­pact of plat­forms like Google and Face­book on the in­dus­try.

Un­der leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced in the 1980s to pro­tect di­ver­sity, me­dia com­pa­nies are blocked from own­ing tele­vi­sion, ra­dio and news­pa­per as­sets in the same city, while metropoli­tan and re­gional broadcasters are barred from merg­ing.

Ma­jor play­ers in the mar­ket have long pressed for change, ar­gu­ing the rules are out­dated and do not ac­count for dig­i­tal me­dia plat­forms and new pub­lish­ers like Google and Face­book and video stream­ing gi­ants such as Net­flix.

Can­berra un­veiled plans for a re­vamp 18 months ago and a fi­nal deal was struck in the Se­nate, where the gov­ern­ment needs the sup­port of in­de­pen­dents, in­clud­ing the right-wing One Na­tion party, to pass new laws.

“This is not 1988, the in­ter­net does ex­ist. The me­dia laws were crafted for an era which to­day is barely recog­nis­able,” Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Mitch Fi­field told the up­per house in a late-night ses­sion on Wed­nes­day. “We have the sup­port of es­sen­tially the en­tire Aus­tralian me­dia in­dus­try.”

Un­der the changes, which are set to gain fi­nal ap­proval later this week, a com­pany will be al­lowed to own a TV sta­tion, news­pa­per and ra­dio sta­tion in a sin­gle mar­ket.

The “reach rule”, which pre­vented a sin­gle TV broad­caster from reach­ing more than 75 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, will also be re­pealed.

The op­po­si­tion La­bor party and the Greens are against the “two out of three” rule be­ing scrapped, ar­gu­ing it will lead to a higher con­cen­tra­tion of me­dia own­er­ship, no­tably in the hands of Ru­pert Mur­doch’s News Cor­po­ra­tion.

To reach agree­ment with the in­de­pend- ents, the gov­ern­ment had to make con­ces­sions, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing a A$60.4 mil­lion (US$ 48 mil­lion) fund for re­gional and small pub­lish­ers and more train­ing for jour­nal­ists.

In­de­pen­dent Se­na­tor Nick Xenophon, whose sup­port was cru­cial, said he had also se­cured a deal for an inquiry into the im­pact of plat­forms like Google and Face­book, which he said were hoover­ing up bil­lions in ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue in Aus­tralia, but pay­ing lit­tle tax.

“It will be a world first inquiry into the power of Google and Face­book and other so­cial me­dia plat­forms, the im­pact on the me­dia, is­sues of copy­right and mar­ket dom­i­na­tion, how do we level the play­ing field for me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions?,” said Xenophon.

Like other in­ter­na­tional me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions, those in Aus­tralia have suf­fered from de­clin­ing ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enues and cir­cu­la­tion, with many slash­ing staff lev­els and costs.

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