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ABC News Breakfast ABC studio

E & OE

PAUL KENNEDY:

Let’s go to federal politics and the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is appealing directly to the crossbench to pass the Government’s shake up of media ownership laws. Executives of all the major media outlets banded together last night to support the Coalition’s changes.

DEL IRANI:

But the Opposition and the Greens are against plans to remove the two out of three ownership rule amid concern about consumer choice. Senator Fifield joins us now from Parliament House. Good morning to you Senator.

FIFIELD:

Good morning Del.

IRANI:

Now I’ll get to those issues in just a moment but first I would like to talk to you about the incident that took place on that Malaysian Airlines plane that returned to Melbourne airport overnight. How concerned are you about this?

FIFIELD:

Well, from the reports that we’ve seen so far it looks as though it could be an individual who was disturbed in some way. We’ll need to wait to hear more from the police about the exact circumstances but it would have been incredibly distressing for those on board, but it looks like there were some very brave cabin crew and very brave passengers who took to themselves the responsibility of containing the situation, but we’ll have to wait to hear more.

IRANI:

Senator Fifield there are already concerns about that it was in a way a security breach, will there be a government review into this at some point?

FIFIELD:

Look, it’s standard when there are incidents such as this that the relevant law enforcement agencies and airport security check what happened and if there was anything that could have been done and anything that happened that shouldn’t have.

IRANI:

Ok, we’ll now talk about the proposed media reforms, media industry is behind the reforms, of course the Government wants these reforms to pass. So, why haven’t you been able to convince the Parliament to support them.

FIFIELD:

Well, it’s still a work in progress. We’re having good discussions with the Senate crossbench. What we’ve seen during this term of Parliament is that we can get good results with the current Senate, that they are open and that we can get some good things done. So those conversations will continue. But this is just so important. We want to have strong Australian media voices into the future. And what Australian media tells us is that they want greater freedom and greater flexibility so that they can configure their businesses in the ways that best support their viability. So our package is unabashedly pro-Australian media.

IRANI:

But there is one point in that package which is a point of contention and that is of course the two out of the three rule which a lot of parties wanted scrapped because essentially what that would do it would prevent, it would allow, it would prevent one company from controlling all three newspaper, radio, TV media outlets. How in your opinion is it a good thing to give so much control to just one company?

FIFIELD:

It’s important to recognise that we will have some protections that will remain in place. Things such as the two to a market radio rule which says that you can’t have an individual or a group that control more than two radio stations in a market. We’ll still have the one to a market rule for TV that you can’t have an individual or a group that controls more than one TV station in a market. We’ll still have something called the 5/4 or voices rule that says that in a metropolitan area there need to be five independent media voices and that in regional areas there need to be four independent media voices. We will still have the ACCC running their competition ruler over any propositions. And we’ll still have the ABC. And we’ll still have the SBS. So we have those guarantees for diversity. But what we’ve got to make sure is that we have strong Australian media companies. If we don’t have strong Australian media voices, if we have Australian media organisations that fail that will be the greatest challenge to diversity. So I want to see Australian media organisations strong and continue.

IRANI:

And you’ve got the whole media industry on board so I don’t understand why you can’t convince the rest of Parliament to pass this through?

FIFIELD:

Well, look the crossbench are open. We’re having good discussions. What I really can’t understand is where the Australian Labor Party is coming from. I mean, I’ll put a rhetorical proposition to you. Who is in a better position to know what is in the best interests of Australian media. Is it Nine, Seven, Ten, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, News Limited, Fairfax, Astra, Foxtel, Commercial Radio Australia, and Free TV or is it the Australian Labor Party? I’m happy to listen to the Australian media sector. I’m happy to take on board what they say they need to ensure their viability.

IRANI:

And the media were in Canberra last night, did you tell them they need to be lobbying the Labor and Greens to get this through?

FIFIELD:

I don’t need to tell the Australian media industry anything. This is a package that we have worked on with them. This is a package that they have helped craft. This is a package in which no media organisation gets everything they want but everyone gets part of what they want. So this is historic, that we have the entire Australian media industry on board, on the same page, saying we need this package of reform, it needs to be passed, and it needs to be passed in its entirety.

IRANI:

So what will happen to the industry if these changes are not passed?

FIFIELD:

Well we’re working hard to get them passed. There’s every reason why they should be passed. If the Australian media industry can come together there’s absolutely no reason why the Australian Senate can’t come together. This is an important package for the viability of Australian media.

IRANI:

Senator Mitch Fifield, thank you for joining us on News Breakfast this morning.

FIFIELD:

Thanks Del.

[ends]