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

Doorstop interview - ACMA Content Conference

16 May 2017

JOURNALIST
Just on the conference I noticed that Richard Bean's been acting for a while, are you going to confirm him as head of ACMA anytime soon?

FIFIELD
Oh, look we'll have more to say in the near term about the ACMA review.

JOURNALIST
Yep. Obviously the talk is Australian content here, and you know there's a possibility that a US entity will own Fairfax media. Are there any concerns from the Government around that, would there need to be any concessions from the US-based Giant TPG to be successful?

FIFIELD
Well, there's a proposition that has been put to Fairfax. It's a matter for the Board and shareholders of Fairfax. And as there's a possibility that a proposition could be before FIRB, as a Government Minister it's not appropriate for me to say anything else.

JOURNALIST
Fair enough, and I noticed the story in the Aus yesterday around Mrs Hanson is obviously holding out on media reforms, she seems to be the only one at the moment. Is there anything that you're doing to try and work out a deal there?

FIFIELD
Well, I'm talking to all my parliamentary colleagues. And I think the important thing to note is it's historic that every media organisation in the country is saying that this package of reforms should be passed in its entirety. And that's what I'm talking to my colleagues about. And that conversation will continue.

JOURNALIST
What's your level of confidence getting this through the Senate at this stage? Because it does appear that right now Labor doesn't look like they're going to be coming to the party. I mean are you, you're obviously you were very confident when you announced the reforms. Do you have that same level of confidence today?

FIFIELD
Well, I mean I think it's great that we've got the entire Australian media industry as one saying that these reforms should be passed as a package, as a whole. I give credit to the leaders of Australia's media industry. That they've looked beyond their own legitimate organisational interests to the wider interests of the Australian media industry. And I'm talking to my cross-bench colleagues, talking to Labor colleagues, and talking to my Greens colleagues. But there's every reason why this package should be supported as a whole. And as Manager of Government Business in the Senate, I am by nature a legislative optimist. So, this is a Parliament, this is a Senate that has worked. This is a Senate where the Government has had some good success. So, I'm continuing the conversations with my Senate colleagues.

JOURNALIST
What does the timetable look like at this stage given those conversations? Does it change from where you were a couple of weeks ago?

FIFIELD
Well, we're still having conversations with colleagues. We're aiming to introduce the package to the Parliament as soon as we can.

JOURNALIST
Just another quick one on the side. As part of the reforms you've announced the banning of sports betting advertising within live sport, as part of it. We've had quite a controversy over the weekend from one of the sports betting companies using a former drug cheat as part of their campaign. Do you have any concerns about the way in which the betting industry is utilising spectrum airwaves at the moment to try and get its message across, and do you have any particular concerns about this particular style of advertising that was used over the weekend? It's already received a lot of complaints from the Advertising Standards Bureau.

FIFIELD
I think it was a dumb ad. It was ill-advised. There are complaints, I know, that have been lodged with ACMA who will undertake an investigation. And complaints have also been lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau who will also examine those.

JOURNALIST
Any message for the industry as to how they're conducting themselves when ads like this are going out?

FIFIELD
Well, you've got to keep in mind community values and community expectations. And, as I say, I just think that the ad was really a dumb idea.

JOURNALIST
Senator, can I just ask- do you think that the competition law is strong enough to continue to have diversity if the two out of three rule goes?

FIFIELD
Well if the two out of three rule goes, and the 75% audience reach rule goes. We still have competition law. We will still have the five-four voices rule. We will still have the two to a market rule for radio, and the one to a market rule for TV. So I think that there are still strong protections there. But, my big worry when it comes to diversity is not having Australian media organisations in a position where they can configure themselves to be strong and viable. What getting rid of the two out of three rule is all about is giving Australian media organisations options and that's got to be a good thing.

JOURNALIST
And how will the Government be participating in the Senate Inquiry on public journalism because obviously a broader part of this conversation is Facebook and Google have come into the advertising market, taking up the majority of any new advertising?

FIFIELD
The inquiry is a creation of the Senate. The enquiry will conduct itself as it chooses. And we'll see where it ends up. 

[ends]

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