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Interview with Ben Fordham Sydney Live, 2GB

E & OE

FORDHAM:
Mitch Fifield is the Communications Minister and he joins me on the line.

Mitch Fifield, good afternoon.

FIFIELD:
Good to be with you Ben.

FORDHAM:
I should have probably declared in the introduction I'm employed by both of these companies, Fairfax Media and also the Nine Network. So I'll get that one out of the way.

But what does it mean first of all for readers and for viewers Minister?

FIFIELD:
What I hope it means is that we're going to have good, strong Australian media voices into the future. One of my big fears as the Comms Minister has been the remorseless competition that Australian media organisations face from the global online platforms. And we used to have, until we changed it, media laws that hampered Australian media organisations, that stopped them getting together and getting scale where that made sense. So what we want to see is Australian media organisations survive. When they survive they can continue to employ Australian journalists and they can continue to create Australian content so we can hear our stories in our voices.

FORDHAM:
So once upon a time our view was look we can't allow you to own too many things because you'll be too powerful. And now we've got these giants coming in from overseas, the Googles, the Netflix, YouTube and Amazon and that's why we need to shift the goal posts a bit.

FIFIELD:
That's right. The greatest threat to media diversity would actually be the failure of one our big Australian media organisations. So that's why we changed the media laws so that we can give more options to our media organisations as to who they get together with. And we want them to go from strength to strength. But we can't pretend that we're still in 1988 when the internet didn't exist. It does. There's competition there. So we've got to do whatever we can to strengthen our Australian media organisations.

FORDHAM:
We're talking to the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield about the Fairfax and Nine merger. Is it a merger or is it a takeover Minister?

FIFIELD:
Well it's been characterised as a merger by ..

FORDHAM:
It's a takeover though isn't it…

FIFIELD:
… by both of your current employers. I did think for one moment that maybe they were going to call it the Fordham News Network, but that …

FORDHAM:
I proposed it but that was ignored.

FIFIELD:
Yeah. (laughs)

FORDHAM:
But it's a takeover though right?

FIFIELD:
It's a coming together of two great Australian media organisations.

FORDHAM:
What about Paul Keating the former Prime Minister. Obviously when there's a merger like this and when it's in the media people are worried about job cuts, but they're also worried about that breakdown in diversity of opinion. And Paul Keating has described the deal as “exceptionally bad”.

FIFIELD:
Well, Paul Keating wants us to still be living in the 80s. He thinks that the media laws that he put in place in the 80s are still fit for purpose. They're not. I absolutely understand the concern about diversity. But people forget that we have a big $1.3 billion commitment to media diversity every year. And that is the money that we give to support the ABC and SBS. They are important underpinnings of media diversity and big contributions to civic journalism.
We also shouldn't forget Ben, community radio. We gave them extra money in the last Budget because they're also part of what creates a diverse media environment.

FORDHAM:
Ok, well we'll see what the competition watchdog has to say about it. But I've got a feeling it's all going to go ahead.
Minister, great to chat to you. Thanks for coming on.

FIFIELD:
Good to be with you.

[ends]