Eddie McGuire may be urging Nine staffers for ideas over barbecued snags to reinvent the flagging network, but what’s Communication Minister Helen Coonan cooking up in the way of new cross-media ownership laws? And when will they be on the table?

Mark Day has some interesting hints in The Australian’s media section today:

The Howard Government is on its third attempt to reform media laws since it came to power 10 years ago today. You’d therefore expect, given it has been down this long and winding road twice before, it would have a fair idea of the direction it wants to go.

But apparently that is not so. Communications Minister Helen Coonan put her final touches to her proposals for reform mark three at the end of January, but today, more than a month later, her blueprint remains “stuck in the Oval Office”…

Too many cooks? Well, Coonan gave us consumers an amuse bouche on Radio National’s Media Report this morning – and a very tantalising taste of what she’s been working on in the kitchen it was, too.

Despite celebrating ten years in government on the PBL table last night, Coonan talked about opening up the new digital spectrum to new players, not just owners of the current commercial TV networks. And that fits in with other morsels of information that are drifting around the kicthen.

We hear that Coonan is working a recipe to deregulate ownership all together. That might stick in the magnates’ gullets – but should go down well with consumers. You can’t avoid change. Yet that’s what successive Australian governments have tried to do with media policy – making FM radio, colour television and pay TV available years after they were on offer overseas.

We live in a very different world nowadays. Average Australians are more aware of services available in other countries – and what they are missing out on. Coonan might be about to make a very courageous decision in Yes Minister terms – and gamble that the response from consumers will outweigh the outrage of magnates and other industry vested interests.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW