Ministers for the Department of Communications and the Arts

Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Minister for Communications

Minister for the Arts

Manager of Government Business in the Senate

Money News with Ross Greenwood, 2GB

28 August 2017

ROSS GREENWOOD:

As we told you at the head of the  program.Surprisingly in some ways, CBS the giant US network has created,  suddenly, out of the blue, an ownership of the Ten Network in  Australia.
Now as I indicated earlier it was broadly  expected that Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon.Lachlan Murdoch being the  Chairman of News Corporation.Bruce Gordon being the boss of WIN  TV.Would ultimately buy it.They were big shareholders in Ten  previously, they were also guarantors to its loans.But technically right  now they would not be able to buy it because they would be in breach of the  current media laws in Australia.Now it would appear as though, the  receivers in this case have gone effectively for the bird in the hand.
Now just having a look at some of the reports  in the US about how CBS have done it.Now from what I can see right now  CBS has nobody, not a single person.But what is suggested is that it is  going to test, in Australia, a video on demand service.Now you are aware  of Netflix and if you subscribe to Netflix you get a range of different movies  and products that come down to you.Now CBS has something similar in the  United States, it's called CBS All Access.It's going to try and take this  into Canada, but it allows people to get back copies of say NCIS or The Big  Bang Theory. Now The Big Bang Theory right now has been on Nine, NCIS is  on Ten.
But the point is now it seems as though it's  paying for Ten because it was a major supplier to Ten, and therefore, a major  creditor to that organisation. But as I say, the real problem is still that the  media ownership laws have not passed through our Parliament even though One  Nation, Pauline Hanson agreed to them. She wanted certain conditions out of the  ABC. Such as anybody with a salary of more than $200,000, even if they  are on air, would actually have that disclosed.
Everybody seemed to say yes to that, and then  Nick Xenophon stepped in and said no.So now the question is where does it  go to from here?Mitch Fifield is the Minister for Communications and the  Arts.The man in charge of the carriage of all this.Mitch Fifield we  appreciate your time as always.

FIFIELD:

Good to be with you Ross.

GREENWOOD:

OK tell me exactly where these media ownership  laws are up to right now.

FIFIELD:

Well Ross they're sitting in the  Senate.They have passed the House of Representatives.We have the support  of a number of the crossbenchers and you mention that Pauline Hanson's One  Nation are on board.I am still talking to Nick Xenophon, who is always a  positive kind of guy, and those discussions are continuing.
But the reason that we are in this situation  Ross is that the Labor Party have completely absented themselves from  this.This legislation could have been passed many months ago if Labor had  stepped up to the plate, said we recognise that our media laws are old hat and  need to changed.They haven't done that, so that's why I am talking to the  crossbenchers.And I have got to give the crossbenchers  credit.Unlike Bill Shorten and the Labor Party they have been positive  and engaged.

GREENWOOD:

OK Bill Shorten today said the case for  abolishing the two out of three rule, in other words, that a big media company  could only own two forms of media in major markets.The two out of three  rule was to save Channel Ten.Well CBS has saved Channel Ten so we don't  need to tamper with media diversity laws.I say welcome CBS, welcome Down  Under.What would you say to that?

FIFIELD:

Well,  Bill Shorten is just plain wrong. Our media reform package was not Channel Ten  specific. It is there to free up our media ownership laws, to give tax cuts to  commercial radio and TV, to give Australian media more options in terms of  dance partners so that they can configure themselves in the ways to best  support their viability.

Now,  Bill Shorten is essentially saying it hasn't rained today, therefore we don't  need umbrellas anymore. Australian media is challenged, every major Australian  media organisation wants our package, and the Labor Party should get on and  support it. But for Bill Shorten to say that because of today's announcement  therefore media reform isn't needed is just bizarre.

GREENWOOD:

Ok,  just explain to me the current situation because with the ABC the One Nation  package included obviously those demands over fairness, but then a second part  about this, about demands over salaries, Nick Xenophon has come back and said  that's pretty hard to test, I can't see the need for so-called fair and  balanced test inside the ABC. If you've got One Nation on one hand and you've  got the Nick Xenophon team on the other hand not agreeing about the package,  how does the package move forward?

FIFIELD:

Well,  One Nation have made clear in our discussions that what they would like is for  us to introduce legislation after the passage of this media reform package to  address those ABC issues. So it's up to the Senate what happens with those ABC  propositions. We will be endeavouring to encourage Senate colleagues to support  those. But that is something that Senate colleagues can look at separately to  the media reform package that's before the Parliament.

GREENWOOD:

Ok,  just another strange one because quite clearly CBS coming to Australia would  have to pass Foreign Investment Review Board guidance. Have you met with the  CBS executives? Are they or you confident that Foreign Investment Review Board  process will be not an issue for them?

FIFIELD:

Well,  the FIRB processes are matters for the Foreign Investment Review Board. Because  there may be regulatory processes to be followed, I want to be careful not to  talk about those. But in terms of today's announcement, I welcome any  proposition that would see Ten stable, secure, broadcasting and employing.

GREENWOOD:

So,  that being the case also did you meet with their representatives? I understood  he sent some of his senior people to Australia last month. At that time did you  have meetings with them?

FIFIELD:

No,  I haven't met with CBS. They've got a proposition which the administrators and  receivers have accepted. So we will now look at what happens in terms of  shareholder approvals and any regulatory processes that might need to be  followed.

GREENWOOD:

Yeah,  it's going to be interesting to watch that, but tell me when you get back into  Parliament, how long or what process do you think will happen for those media  laws to be passed or not?

FIFIELD:

Well,  we're back in the Parliament next week and I want to see these media reforms go  through as soon as possible. We've got some good discussions happening with  Nick Xenophon. But, again Ross I say to the Australian Labor Party for heaven's  sake recognise that the internet exists, recognise that this isn't 1988. Get on  board. Do your bit to help support strong Australian media voices.

GREENWOOD:

Have  you got a bottle of wine, let's say it doesn't happen by Christmas time?

FIFIELD:

(Laughs)  Ross, I take this business one day at a time.

GREENWOOD:

Mitch  Fifield is the Minister for Communications and the Arts in Australia. The man  who's responsible for the carriage of those media reforms in Australia to go  through our Parliament and ultimately today of course, CBS will ultimately be  the owners of the Ten Network and things will significantly change.

Mitch,  appreciate your time as always.

FIFIELD:

Good  to be with you Ross.

[ends]

Media contact:

Geraldine Mitchell | 0407 280 476 | Geraldine.mitchell@communications.gov.au

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