Minister for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

A/g Minister for Regional Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Announcement of Media Reform Package

6 May 2017

Media Room

Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices, Melbourne

6 May 2017

10am

E & OE
FIFIELD: Good morning and thank you for coming. Today we are announcing a comprehensive and holistic package of media reforms to support the viability and longevity of the Australian media industry.
It's a package that delivers a community dividend in the form of further restrictions for gambling advertising.

It's a package that has the unanimous support of the media industry and it's a package that is unabashedly in support of Australian media.

We want an Australian media that will survive and prosper. While we might not always like what you write, what you print, what you broadcast or what you stream. What you do is an important underpinning for the diversity and health of Australian democracy.

So what we are doing in this package is abolishing broadcast licence fees for radio and TV. These fees really are from a bygone era. They were introduced effectively as a super profits tax in the late 50's/early 60's when there was no real competition for electronic media. Since then obviously there is great competition for traditional media, from over the top platforms and from services on the internet.
In its place we will be applying a more modest spectrum charge and the net result will be a boost to Free-To-Air broadcasters of $414 million over five years. Now these changes not only give the opportunity to provide a shot in the arm for Free-To-Air broadcasters, but these changes also provide the opportunity for the Government to deliver a community dividend in the form of further restrictions on gambling advertising.

What we will be doing is banning gambling ads from five minutes before a match, a live sporting events, to five minutes afterwards between 5am and 8:30pm. This will provide a safe zone for kids and for families. This will apply across all platforms and it will apply from March 2018.

We will also be amending the anti-siphoning list. There will be some modest trimming, but it leaves in place iconic Australian sporting events.

We're also going to be providing $30 million for subscription TV to support the broadcasting of women's sport and niche sports. And we will also be undertaking a broad review of Australian and children's content requirements and incentives.

Importantly this package also includes the Government's previously announced intention to repeal the media ownership laws known as 75% audience reach and the two out of three rule. And I should point out here that this enjoys the support of the entire media industry.

Can I emphasise that this is a comprehensive package. It enjoys the support of the whole media industry. And it's designed to support and ensure that the Australian media industry continues to prosper.

I should take this opportunity to encourage and to urge the Opposition to support this package. There are many issues which can and should be beyond partisanship. So I urge the Opposition to support this package. A package that enjoys the unanimous support of the whole media industry.

Finally can I thank the Prime Minister and the Treasurer who haven't been prepared to let these issues be kicked into the long grass. And finally can I thank the leaders of Australia's media industry who have been prepared to look beyond their own legitimate organisational interests to the broader interests of the media industry and to the national interest, and I thank them.

JOURNALIST:
Can you clarify the situation after 8:30? What happens then with the gambling ads? What are the rules there?

FIFIELD:
After 8:30pm the current restrictions will continue to apply, which is that gambling ads can only be in scheduled breaks. So what we are announcing today is a very significant expansions of the restrictions on gambling advertising.

We are providing a clear and dedicated safe zone for families and for children before 8:30 at night.

JOURNALIST:
But how is that going to work? I mean kids aren't automatically going to go to bed at 8:30, particularly when their favourite team is playing that night. How is that going to work?

FIFIELD:
8:30 is recognised as the time point where there are a range of activities available on screen that cannot happen before 8:30.

It's the point where alcohol advertising can be more readily done. It's also the point that MA restrictions come into programming.

JOURNALIST:
Why hasn't the Government though not banned all gambling advertising from all live sport not just before 8:30? What's the rational for that?

FIFIELD:
The overwhelming feedback that me and my colleagues across the Parliament have received has been in relation to gambling advertising during live sporting events.

Families want to have the opportunity to sit down in front of a live sporting event and not be faced with gambling ads.

These things are always a balance between recognising that commercial media need to have sources of revenue but at the same time we need to protect families and children.

The balance I think was tipped too far away from families and what we're endeavouring to do with what we're announcing today is to tip the balance back in favour of families and children.

JOURNALIST:
Do you expect any resistance from major sporting codes or gambling companies?

FIFIELD:
Well it's interesting, the gambling companies have actually been at the forefront of calling for just these types of restrictions.

The Responsible Wagering Council has been urging the Government to look at this area because they recognise that there's a need for change. And the sporting codes, I think that they're responsible. And I think that they will accept what we're putting forward.

JOURNALIST:
How are you going to measure whether it will be working? Is there a timeframe here that you'll look at it and look at the figures and look at problem gambling with young people?

FIFIELD:
What we have in Australia at the moment is a code based system when it comes to what can be shown and when.

What we have asked and reached agreement with subscription TV and Free-To-Air TV is that they will make applications to amend the codes to reflect these changes. The codes are registered with ACMA and once registered with ACMA they have the force of law.

ACMA do periodically review the codes. The codes aren't in place for ever. And when ACMA review the codes there's a period of public consultation.

JOURNALIST:
Was there consideration to make this legislation?

FIFIELD:
We always maintain the right to legislate these restrictions if they're not brought about by variations to the code. But I want to give credit to subscription TV and to FreeTV and their members who have embraced this and who will willingly present the request to modify the code. So in terms of those platforms legislation will not be needed. But of course we're always prepared to do that if it was required.

JOURNALIST:
In January the Federal Government said it had no plans to do this at all. What prompted the change as part of this media reform package?

FIFIELD:
This is an area that we keep under constant review. We listen to community feedback and we respond. We didn't at that time have a concrete proposition. Today we do.

JOURNALIST:
Under the changes to anti-siphoning rules will people watching on free TV miss out on watching some types of sports under those changes?

FIFIELD:
It's important to recognise that the anti-siphoning list is not an exhaustive and complete list of every sporting event in Australia. It has about 1300 events on the list. And what we're proposing here is the removal of 100 events.

There are many events that are not on the list that are on free to air TV and there are many events that aren't on the list that are on subscription TV. So I think Australians can be confident that they will still be able to access the events that they want. And we have not removed the iconic Australian sporting events that Australians love.

JOURNALIST:
Was slashing the licence fees a compromise to get rid of the gambling ads?

FIFIELD:
We have already cut licence fees. In the last budget I cut Free-To-Air licence fees by 25%. My predecessors have also cut licence fees. So it's been something that both sides of politics have recognised, that the licence fees are really something from a bygone era. But what we've done is taken the opportunity to not only provide a shot in the arm for free to air broadcasters but we've taken this opportunity to provide a community dividend in the form of further gambling advertising restrictions.

JOURNALIST:
But was there a connection between those two parts in the negotiation?

FIFIELD:
Well clearly for Free-To-Air broadcasters, they receive a benefit as a result of the abolition of licence fees and the introduction of a more modest spectrum charge.

Even after we put in place these gambling advertising restrictions the Free-To-Air broadcasters will still be in a stronger position.

JOURNALIST:
Xenophon is holding a press conference in a little over an hour, what role did he play in this package?

FIFIELD:
I had no conversations on this package with Nick Xenophon. He and I are well aware of each other's views on a range of issues. But this is a proposition that the Government has put forward. And I certainly hope this will enjoy the support of the Crossbench.

JOURNALIST:
How hopeful are you that these changes to the fee structure could save a company like Network 10?

FIFIELD:
All Australian media companies are operating in a very challenging environment. Whether it be print. Whether it be TV. There are a range of competitors who weren't on the scene five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago.

This package has been warmly welcomed by Channel 10. Channel 10 welcome the licence fee reductions. Channel 10 are also very keen to have the abolition of the 75% audience reach rule and the two out of three rule. And indeed every media organisation in the country is now on board with that and on board with this package as a whole. As you all know, that's not something that happens terribly often. So I think it's a moment of some significance.

JOURNALIST:
The networks still basically explain I understand it is $40 million is that right?

FIFIELD:
That's right. At the moment we would be collecting about $130 million in licence fees. What we are proposing is the abolition of those licence fees and instead putting in a spectrum pricing regime, which will return to the Commonwealth about $40 million.

JOURNALIST:
And how will the government offset the loss of that revenue? You won't be receiving as much with the spectrum fee.

FIFIELD:
In the budget we ensure that whatever we do if it is a cost to the budget, we cover it in other ways.

JOURNALIST:
The changes to the reach rule and the changes to the two out of three rule have been before Parliament for some time, but they have not been brought to a vote. How confident are you that you will have enough support to get those measure through the Senate.

FIFIELD:
Well it is a pity that the legislation has not been passed more quickly. Unfortunately it spent the best part of about six or seven months in front of two Senate committees. So we haven't been able to deal with it. But you are right, it is currently before the Senate.What we are proposing is to bring that together with the elements of the package that I have announced today. Present it to the Parliament as an integrated package. That integrated and comprehensive package has the support of all Australian media organisations. Seven, Nine, Ten, Win, Prime, South Cross Austereo, Foxtel, FreeTV Australia, Commercial Radio Australia and ASTRA. I think the Australian media industry is in the best position to know what is in its interests. And they as one want to see this package, as a whole, passed.

JOURNALIST:
Are you abolishing the two out of three rule to allow the Stokes' and Reinhart's and the Murdoch's to give them the ability to own all three forms of media?

FIFIELD:
Well the idea behind the abolition of the two out of three rule is to give Australian media organisations the opportunity to configure themselves in the way that best supports their viability. So I am agnostic when it comes to which organisations look to partner with other organisations. They are commercial matters for them. But what we are told, repeatedly, by Fairfax, by News Limited, by Ten is that the abolition of that rule will create real opportunity for media organisations to better configure themselves.
Also you should note that regional TV are strongly in favour of abolishing the 75 percent audience reach rule, and the two out of three rule. This is about enabling Australian media companies to be stronger and more viable.

JOURNALIST:
Are you concerned at all, not so much on the east coast, but in smaller cities like Perth and Adelaide where Seven West is dominant in the media in Perth, News Limited in Adelaide. Are you concerned at all on the impact this will have on smaller capital cities?

FIFIELD:
Well it is important to recognise that we are not proposing an abolition on all of the media laws. We are proposing that the two out of three and 75% audience reach goes. But we are not proposing to change the one to a market rule in terms of TV. We are not proposing to change the two to a market rule in terms of radio. We are not proposing to change what is known as the voices rule or the five/four rule. Which requires that there be five independent voices in metropolitan areas and four independent voices in regional areas. So there are still those important protections there. Not to mention the ACCC and their processes.

JOURNALIST:
Just going off track for a moment. The Fairfax dispute at the moment, are you concerned about what that could mean. The impact on those two newspapers and also the Financial Review?

FIFIELD:
The whole basis of the package we are putting forward is that we want strong media organisations. We want viable Australian media organisations. We talk a lot about media diversity. Well one of the important underpinnings of media diversity is having strong Australian media organisations. I note that Fairfax has been at the forefront of arguing for the abolition of the two out of three rule. They are one of the media organisations, who recognise that there needs to be a capacity for Australian media organisations to configure and combine in ways that best underpin their viability.

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