Media Room

Minister Fifield on Media Laws and Senate Voting Reforms

Communications and The Arts

The Federal Communications Minister, Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield today addressed the National Press Club on the two distinct streams of his portfolio – Communications and the Arts – which he compared to the ‘sinews and the soul’ of Australia. In particular, he outlined the progress of his package to reform two out-dated Australian media laws which were set when the internet and mobile phones did not exist.

The full package he expects to get through will see the removal of ‘a pair of cast iron shackles’ on the media industry.

1. Reach Rule: Which prevents networks from broadcasting to more than 75% of the population
2. Two out of three Rule: which prohibits proprietors from owning a TV station, radio network and newspaper in the same market. Removing the two out of three Rule would allow, for example, Fairfax Media to merge with the Nine Network.

The Minister outlined that Australian consumers of news were leading international trends of online consumption (up to 50%) and the broad impact on traditional print and TV mediums.

The package of legislation he seeks to pass provides incentives for the production of content from regional and rural areas to ensure diversity of content and minimise potential job losses.

Minister Fifield said “strong and near-unanimous support for the removal of two out of three and reach rules amongst media organisations ought to dispel any notion” that the reforms favoured any one particular media organisation – referring to emotional considerations around some media organisations.

During questions from the floor the Minister addressed the following:
Future protection of Free-to-Air content, i.e. Sport, under Anti-Siphoning laws
• The effectiveness of consultations so far, leading to adjustments
Minimum content provisions (20 minutes per week) for new media in rural areas
• The role of music & the arts in shaping Australian culture

Related Media Articles
AFR Media shakeup: extra points for local TV news
SMH Mitch Fifield attacks ‘analogue warriors’ who fear Murdoch expansion
The Conversation Who benefits from media reform?
Townsville Bulletin Ewen Jones backs changes to media laws
ABC What will media reforms mean for regional Australia?

Business in the Senate

In his role as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, the Minister shed some light on the Government’s priorities this week and the respective impending budget and election dates.
• NBN Progress – Reiterated that the Governments policy has and always will be to roll-out a mix of technology across the program of works that he believes will see completion occur faster and cheaper than under Labor.
• Ensuring the Senate Voting Reform Legislation is passed is the Government’s first priority this week, and he suggested debate would likely occur “somewhere around 3am this Friday morning.”
• Whilst the Government would like to see the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Bill also passed this week, the Minister is realistic and doesn’t expect it to pass until at least the week of 11 May, given Labor’s strong opposition to this bill.

Related Media Articles
IT News NBN considered ditching FTTN for FTTdp
Delimiter Success: “Skinny” fibre trial cut FTTP costs by $450, rollout time by 4 weeks
ABC Senate voting reform: What just happened?
APG.GOV.AU Experts argue for Senate voting reform
ABC Senate voting reform: Mathias Cormann reacts to Muir’s attempt to debate ABCC bill

As always, if you’d like our confidential insights, please contact us directly in the Canberra office, and we’d be pleased to offer you a briefing.

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