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Historic media reforms pass Parliament

The biggest reform to Australian media laws in nearly three decades will now become law after the Turnbull Government's comprehensive package of legislation achieved final passage through the House of Representatives today.

The Government's reforms will strengthen Australian media organisations to help ensure their future viability as well as support local jobs and strong Australian media voices.

Redundant rules that date back to the 1980s, before the internet existed, will now be abolished and Australian media organisations will now have the chance to better compete with online operators.

The Australian media industry has been united in its support for these reforms and will now be given the fighting chance they need to secure their future.

In contrast, the Labor Party sought to obstruct and oppose these vital reforms. Reform was delayed for months with two separate Senate inquiries and a complete refusal by the Opposition to constructively engage.

Despite claiming that Labor supported most of the package, the Opposition voted against the entire package at every stage.

In a final embarrassment, Shadow Minister Michelle Rowland today capitulated and announced Labor would not oppose the amendments to local programming requirements. The Government welcomes Labor's backflip after they voted against these same amendments in the Senate just a month ago.

I thank Coalition colleagues for their strong advocacy and support of these vital reforms, and the leaders of Australia's media industry for coming together to back the package with one voice. I also acknowledge the constructive engagement of the Senate crossbench.

But it should not be forgotten that Bill Shorten and Michelle Rowland, when given a chance to engage with the Government on an important and comprehensive piece of economic reform, were once again more interested in playing petty politics.

Again the Turnbull Government has delivered reforms that many said would never pass. Despite Labor's obstructionism and political games, the Government keeps delivering. The Government is entirely focused on delivering for all Australians.

Media reform package

The measures include:

  • The abolition of broadcast licence fees and replacement with a more modest spectrum charge, providing close to $90 million per annum in ongoing financial relief to metropolitan and regional television and radio broadcasters
  • A substantial reduction in gambling advertising during live sport broadcasts, representing a strong community dividend with the establishment of a clear 'safe zone' for families to enjoy live sport
  • Abolition of redundant ownership rules that shackle local media companies and inhibit their ability to achieve the scale necessary to compete with foreign tech giants
  • Retention of diversity protections that ensure multiple controllers of television and radio licences as well as minimum numbers of media voices in all markets. These are the two-to-a-market rule for commercial radio, the one-to-a-market rule for commercial television, the requirement for a minimum of 5 independent media voices in metropolitan markets and a minimum of 4 independent media voices in regional markets, and the competition assessments made by the ACCC
  • Higher minimum local content requirements for regional television following trigger events, including introducing minimum requirements in markets across South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for the first time and
  • Reforms to anti-siphoning to strengthen local subscription television providers.

The Government will also implement a $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation package including:

  • a $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund
  • a Regional and Small Publishers cadetship program to support 200 cadetships and
  • 60 regional journalism scholarships.

Legislation will also be introduced by the end of this year to give effect to:

  • a public register of foreign-owned media assets
  • the proposals of Senator Bridget McKenzie to enhance the ABC's focus on rural and regional Australia
  • a range of enhanced transparency measures for the public broadcasters
  • include the words 'fair' and 'balanced' in Section 8 of the ABC Act and
  • a community radio package.