Go to top of page

RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly ABC Studios

E & OE

JOURNALIST:

Some of the major players in the Australian media will launch an all-out bid today to convince the Senate to pass the Government’s long awaited media reform package. It’s an unprecedented show of industry unity really, more than 25 top CEOs from all the major newspaper groups, commercial television and radio networks joining forces to campaign for the biggest changes to our media laws in more than two decades.

But they are facing stiff opposition. The abolition of the two out of three rule, which prevents media companies dominating a single market is opposed by many in the Senate.

The Communications Minister Mitch Fifield joins us, Minister good morning.

FIFIELD:

Good Morning Fran.

JOURNALIST:

Before I get to your media reforms, I think you were just listening to the Director General of the ASIO, Duncan Lewis. Are you satisfied with his explanation, does it make sense to you, his comments when he said there was no connection between refugees and terrorism? It’s a claim he still makes, it’s not being a refugee that makes someone a terrorist, it’s being radicalised by Sunni extremists.

FIFIELD:

Well, terrorists come from a range of backgrounds. There are a range of causes of terror activity. Chief amongst them is the radicalisation of youth. I think the Director General put things in good context.

JOURNALIST:

Let’s go to your portfolio now, you’re bringing together the major commercial and subscription networks, News Corp, Fairfax, Macquarie radio group, they’re all in Canberra today to lobby Labor and the crossbenchers. I think this is what you call rolling out the big guns. Does it suggest you need reinforcements to try and get your package through the Senate?

FIFIELD:

This isn’t just the big guns, I mean you’re right, we have Nine, Seven, Ten, Fairfax and News Limited who will be represented this evening but we also have a large number of small commercial radio operators. The Australian media has players of all sizes. But the really significant thing here is that they’ve all come together. They’re all speaking with one voice. Saying that they believe that our media reform package needs to be passed and it needs to be passed in its entirety.

JOURNALIST:

Why in its entirety? I mean most of this package is non-controversial. It’s really the two out of three rule that the Greens, One Nation, Labor are opposed to. Why not split it? And get the rest through?

FIFIELD:

It’s a good package. It deserves to be supported as a whole.

JOURNALIST:

Yes, but what happened to, what’s the phrase, perfection being the enemy of the good or whatever the phrase is.

FIFIELD:

(Laughs) The thing about this package is no one in the media industry gets everything they want, but everyone gets a part of what they want. It’s important that the whole industry benefits. We don’t want to have a situation where my colleagues feel that they can cherry pick. Because if you start cherry picking, then you’re not going to have the full sector benefits. And I’ve got to commend that the leaders of the Australian media industry who have looked beyond their own legitimate organisational interests, to the broader health and wellbeing of the sector.

JOURNALIST:

But why is it in the interest of any particular market, any particular regional centre or state or capital city that all the news outlets, the major news outlets of radio, television, newspapers are controlled by one media group?

FIFIELD:

No one is suggesting that all media outlets in a particular market be controlled by one media group, it’s important…  

JOURNALIST:

But they could be couldn’t they?

FIFIELD:

No, not at all. It’s important to recognise that while we’re talking about the abolition of the 75% audience reach rule and the two out of three rule, we will still have the retention of the two to a market radio rule, the one to a market TV rule, what’s known as the five/four or voices rule which says that you’ve got to have in a metropolitan area, five independent voices and in a regional area four independent voices. Also on top of that, you’ll have the ACCC’s competition ruler being run over things. And let’s not forget that we still have the ABC and the SBS. So what we want to have is strong Australian media voices. This package is unabashedly pro-Australian media. And what Australian media is telling us is that they want the opportunity to configure in different ways. They want greater freedom, so that they can get scale, so that they can be competitive, so that they can be viable for the long haul. That’s what this is all about, is ensuring good, strong, viable, long term Australian media organisations.

JOURNALIST:

And scale is all about really, facing the onslaught from social media giants Facebook and Google isn’t it, who are hoovering up the advertising revenue, more than 80% of ad growth is going to new media.

Senator Xenophon has proposed a super tax on these tech giants. Would you consider such a tax in exchange for his vote?

FIFIELD:

You’re right, the online providers, the over the top providers, are competing for ad revenue. This is something that wasn’t envisaged at the time that our media laws were drafted in the late 80’s when Kylie Minogue was still singing The Locomotion. So it’s a different environment. Our media laws need to change.

I’m aware of Senator Xenophon’s proposition. And you will hear from a range of different people that there should be things done on copyright. That there should be things done in terms of taxation. That maybe there should be content requirements for some of the over top providers. They’re all things which are put to government. But we have on the table today, a concrete proposition, a comprehensive plan that can assist Australian media organisations today. And I would urge my Senate colleagues to support this. This is about strong Australian media organisations. And it’s not…

JOURNALIST:

Are you saying that you won’t spilt the bill and you won’t look at something as a trade, like a supertax? Let me get that clear.

FIFIELD:

Look, I’m always happy to look at propositions from colleagues. Colleagues will put them forward. We’re always happy to sit down and talk. But what I’m not prepared to do is to see this package carved up. It’s a comprehensive package. It’s a whole. It should be considered as a whole.

JOURNALIST:

You’re listening to RN breakfast, our guest is the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. Minister on another issue, One Nation has turned its sights on the ABC. It says the ABC is out to destroy One Nation and the Whip Brian Burston has announced that One Nation will oppose all Government bills unless the Government slashes ABC funding by $600 million over four years. What’s your response to that threat from One Nation?

FIFIELD:

The ABC’s funding was laid out at the Budget before last. It’s done, as you know, on a triennium basis and that provides certainty for the organisation. So the Budget situation for the ABC has been established.

Colleagues, crossbench colleagues, will often put propositions on the table that they want to talk about. And it’s open to crossbench colleagues to raise any issue that they want. But we put our legislation forward to the Parliament to be considered on its merits.

JOURNALIST:

So the Government won’t be blackmailed over ABC funding?

FIFIELD:

The funding for the ABC was laid out the Budget before last. We have a range of legislative measures before the Parliament. And we put them forward and ask our colleagues to consider those on their merits.

JOURNALIST:

Senator Fifield, thank you very much for joining us.

FIFIELD:

Good to be with you Fran.

[ends]