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Media law reform package reintroduced

The Turnbull Government has reintroduced much needed media reform legislation to support the viability of Australian media organisations as they face increasing competition from less regulated services.

Australians are changing the way they access media and our laws must adapt to these trends. In the digital era, our current regulations unfairly restrict Australian-based broadcast or publishing companies from optimising the scale and scope of their operations and from accessing resources, capital and management expertise available to other media operators.

Domestic media operators must have the flexibility to compete and adapt in the changing media landscape. These proposed changes to the media control rules will allow businesses to configure themselves in a way that best suits their needs ensuring they can continue to play a significant role in the Australian community.

The media reform package is substantially unchanged from that introduced in March this year. The package will result in major changes to the regulations governing the control and ownership of Australia's traditional media outlets and the provision of local television content in regional Australia.

The package will repeal media ownership and control rules that prevent:

  • a person from controlling commercial television licences whose combined licence area populations reach more than 75 per cent of the Australian population (the 'reach rule'); and
  • a person from controlling more than two of the three regulated forms of media (commercial radio, commercial television and associated newspapers) in one commercial radio licence area (the '2 out of 3 rule').

The reform package will also strengthen local content obligations on regional commercial television licensees following a change in control, such as a merger, that results in them being part of a group whose combined licence area populations reach more than 75 per cent of the Australian population.

The Government is maintaining other diversity rules including the ‘5/4’ rule, the ‘one-to-a-market’ rule and the ‘two-to-a-market’ rule. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will retain its powers to scrutinise mergers and acquisitions and is in the process of updating its media merger guidance accordingly.

The legislation has already been subjected to significant scrutiny through a comprehensive Senate Committee Inquiry conducted between March and May 2016. The reintroduced legislation has been amended to address a minor issue identified by the Committee. The Committee recommended that the legislation be passed.

The Government does not support any further review of the package, noting the extensive debate this issue has undergone in recent years. Australian media companies, regional local content and jobs are at risk if these reforms are not enacted soon. It is time for action.

More information is available at: mediareform.communications.gov.au

Media contact: Luisa Anderson | 0417 309 812 | Luisa.Anderson [at] communications.gov.au