The crazy thing about Helen Coonan’s
proposed minimum number of owners in a prescribed area rule is that it
is so utterly arbitrary in terms of what is included and what is
excluded. Here’s a table detailing the rationalisation she is proposing:

City Current Owners Coonan’s Minimum Owners
Sydney 12 5
Melbourne 11 5
Brisbane 8 5
Adelaide 7 5
Perth 8 5
Hobart 6 4
Bundaberg 6 4
Cairns 7 4
Ballarat 6 4
Dubbo 6 4
Mildura 6 4
Newcastle 6 4
Rockhampton 6 4
Toowoomba 6 4

Take Melbourne for
example, which supposedly currently has 11 different owners but can be
reduced down to five. One of those five can be Sport 927, the AM talk
station which attracts about 1% of the audience. Another could be
Pacific Star, owner of 3MP and the other sports talk station SEN, which
together attracted 5.5% of the audience in the first survey of 2006.

For
some bizarre reason, pay-TV and magazines are completed ignored even
though they are commercial media. Therefore, with Graeme Samuel’s
blessing, which doesn’t seem too hard to get these days, the new rules
would make it perfectly okay for News Corp to buy Channel Seven and
Austereo, leaving a foreign company with the following empire:

  • 70% of Australia’s newspaper including the most influential paper in Victoria, the Herald Sun
  • Pacific Publications, Australia’s second biggest magazine stable
  • Australia’s biggest radio network including Fox and MMM in Melbourne which have a 19% share of the audience
  • The Seven Network, the highest rating station in Victoria so far this year
  • 25% and management control of Foxtel
  • Control of Australia’s largest internet property site

Similarly, PBL would be able to buy Fairfax and APN News & Media giving it the following empire:

  • Channel Nine, Australia’s most watched television network for the past 40 years
  • ACP, Australia’s biggest and most powerful magazine group
  • John Fairfax, still arguably Australia’s most influential newspaper empire with The Age in Melbourne
  • APN’s large stable of regional newspapers, outdoor advertising
    and radio network including Gold and Mix in Melbourne which had 16.5%
    of the audience in survey one
  • 50% of NineMSN, Australia’s fourth most visited internet network
  • 25% of Seek.com, Australia’s dominant jobs website
  • 50% of Hoyts

That should raise enormous alarm bells,
so start lobbying your nearest National Party backbencher right now to
prevent such a disaster for our democracy.

Peter Fray

Fetch your first 12 weeks for $12

Here at Crikey, we saw a mighty surge in subscribers throughout 2020. Your support has been nothing short of amazing — we couldn’t have got through this year like no other without you, our readers.

If you haven’t joined us yet, fetch your first 12 weeks for $12 and start 2021 with the journalism you need to navigate whatever lies ahead.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW