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PVO Newsday Sky News 12:05pm

E & OE

PVO:

A meeting in Canberra today to urge the Senate to support the Government’s media reform package. The Government is one vote closer to securing the key change scrapping the Keating era two out of three rule, which prevents a person or company indeed from controlling two of the three media segments, television, radio and daily newspapers in a single market. Former journalist Derryn Hinch says the industry has legitimate arguments about the impact of the internet and social media which weren’t a factor when the laws were written, that’s why there is such unity in the sector for this reform package to pass. The changes however, are opposed by Labor and at this time, One Nation. Joining me live now is the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, thanks very much for your company Senator. I’m keen to get your thoughts on where this goes, we’ll get to some of the particulars about why Labor opposes this to get the answers to that, I’m keen though to get your thoughts on One Nation. Obviously today, we see the reporting that they are basically going to block everything unless you agree to some sort of $600 million cut in ABC funding which I’ve written a piece for The Australian, it’s just gone online saying how preposterous I think that proposal is. You’re being held to ransom by One Nation. Can you get this through without them? It doesn’t seem like you can if Labor stays opposed just based on the numbers?

FIFIELD:

Well I always take things one day at a time in this business, Peter. And of course, it’s always open to crossbench colleagues to put a proposition on the table to say they want to talk about it.  We’re always happy to talk to our colleagues.  But when it comes to ABC funding we laid that out at the Budget before last.  The triennium funding.  So that is in place. And what we say to all our Senate colleagues, our legislative propositions should be looked at on the basis of their merits. So that’s where we are…

PVO:

But numerically speaking Senator, if One Nation opposes and if you don’t get Labor over the line, and we know the Greens oppose it, that’s it numerically speaking, you need someone there to shift. Am I right?

FIFIELD:

Peter, you’ve seen in this Senate that we’ve had good discussions and good relations with the crossbench.  And we have secured good outcomes. What I find with this Senate crossbench is that they’re always open and willing to talk.  So we’ll keep talking. But I don’t think we should let the Australian Labor Party off the hook when it comes to Media Reform. Labor are prepared to play politics with everything whether it be funding for the NDIS or something that should be pretty straight forward such as bringing our media laws up to date. You know Peter that these media laws were drafted in the late 1980s before the internet had even really come into concept. So Labor should get on board. Labor should support this package.  It is historic…

PVO:

Mitch, let me clear I’m not backward in coming forward about this. I mean my view is someone who once upon a time liked the two out of three rule when it mattered. But now think it is absolutely ridiculous in the Internet age that we are in. It is antiquated, it is dated, Derryn Hinch is right about that. That’s why for the first time in history Senator the media world are in unison in wanting this to happen. So help me understand Labor’s position, it’s not for you to explain them. I see that the shadow spokesperson she’s talking about things like you haven’t proven diversity in the media and they still oppose two out of three. What’s your answer to those sort of claims that there’s a lack of diversity in the age of the internet.

FIFIELD:

Look we’ve got plenty of diversity when it comes to media, but there will still be protections even in the absence of the two out of three rule and the 75 per cent audience reach rule. There will still be something called the two to a market radio rule.  There will still be something called the one two a market TV rule.  There will still be something called the 5/4 voices rule which says that you have to have five independent voices in metro areas and four independent voices in regional areas.  And we’ll still have the ACCC and their competition provisions.  And we’ll still have the ABC.  And we will still have SBS. So there are still protections for diversity.

But the argument that I really can’t understand is that put forward by the Labor Party which is, they essentially want to put the Australian media industry into formaldehyde to preserve it. This is not a static environment. There is great competition for Australian media organisations.  And what we want to do is to give Australian media organisations more options as to how they can configure themselves.

What they tell us is that they want the opportunity to pick some different dance partners, to get scale, if that’s what suits their particular business model.  And I put a rhetorical proposition to you Peter. Who is better placed to know what is in the best interest of ensuring we have strong Australian media voices? Is it Nine, Seven, Ten, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, Foxtel, the Commercial Broadcasting sector, Free TV, Astra and Commercial Radio Australia, News Limited and Fairfax.  Or is it the Australian Labor Party? I’m happy to listen to the Australian media industry.  And what we have here is a package that they all support.

PVO:

Well, let’s burrow into that Senator. And look it certainly doesn’t, and this is unprecedented for this round of reforms. I want to talk about why you’re not willing to split up the reforms. Because Labor likes to talk about that I’ve seen interviews that you’ve done before this one when you’ve been asked about that.  Normally, I would take the view, sure you can always split things up. Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good and all the rest of it. These sort of lines, Howard era esq lines about getting things achieved. Am I right in my understanding that the reason you’re not willing to do that is because the only reason that you have unity in the media sector is for the package as a whole. The minute you start splitting it up, at the moment the package as a whole has something for everyone.  The minute that you start splitting it up you split up the support for your reforms am I right?

FIFIELD:

Well this is a package that benefits all sections of the Australian media. No section of the Australian media gets everything that they want, but everyone gets a part of what they want. We want all Australian media to be stronger. We want all Australian media to be winners out of this package.  And that has secured the support of the entire sector. This is all about making sure that we have strong, viable Australian media organisations who have longevity. That’s what this is about. And that’s why I really don’t understand…

PVO:

Sorry to interrupt. But I am right aren’t I that the minute that you split up the package which I know you don’t want to do and I don’t think you should for what it’s worth, my views as a commentator. But the minute that you do that’s the moment that the absolute unanimity of support in the media sector falls away because inevitably you take one part or another part out and then that unanimity of support is no more because sections within start to sort of see competing interests. That’s the beauty of the package, I’m right about that aren’t I?

FIFIELD:

You’re right, we don’t want to allow a situation where elements of this package can be cherry picked, because then you have some people who win and others who lose. What I want is every part of the Australian media sector to get a benefit. I want every part of the Australian media sector to be in a better position to configure their businesses so that they can compete. The point that I was going to make before Peter was I don’t understand Labor’s argument that they’re concerned that there’ll be a risk to Australian diversity if the two out of three rule is removed. The greatest threat to media diversity in Australia would be the failure of Australian media organisations. If you have Australian media organisations that fail then that is not something that is going to enhance Australian voices. That is not something that is going to enhance diversity in our media.

PVO:

Just finally is the sector telling you that that is a real risk here? I mean you’re talking to senior media executives right across the spectrum who are in Canberra today. Are you hearing from them? And presumably therefore Labor is as well that without reform a challenged sector, let’s face it, that’s what the media is at the moment, really does risk exactly what you’re describing. More redundancies more cuts potential failures by media organisations.

FIFIELD:

Look the industry is deeply concerned about its viability. It’s being challenged by internet-based business models which weren’t in conception at the time our current media laws were put in place. What they want is a fighting chance. And what this government wants to do is give them that fighting chance. There can be other things that colleagues think are good to look at but, that shouldn’t stop this package being supported. It’s the only media reform package in town.  The industry wants it.  It should be supported.

PVO:

Senator Mitch Fifield, Communications Minister thanks for your company on Newsday.

FIFIELD:

Thanks very much Peter.

PVO:

Cheers.

And I tell you what, the Labor Party, they’ve split on previous things.  We’ve heard reporter James Massola in Fairfax reporting on some of the issues there in terms of their view on how the Medicare Levy and whether they should support the Government’s offering. Well if Labor wants to split on something I tell you what, this is something they should split on. It is the rarest thing, rarer than hens teeth, to see the media sector to come together as one and support a reform package. Surely if ever there were a time for Labor to be willing to consider a government package and putting politics to one side, this is it.

[ends]