How many media moguls does it take to change a government’s media policy? Three (Murdoch, Packer and Stokes).

And
how many media moguls now formally oppose the federal government’s
misguided plan to overhaul the structure of Australian media ownership?
Two (Murdoch and Stokes).

With Stokes’s Seven Network joining
News Limited in opposition to the government’s media “reforms”, the
package appears doomed. It now seems inconceivable that the Prime
Minister will attempt to persevere with the core element of the package
– abolition of the cross-media regulations – in the face of this
opposition:

News Limited: Claims the plan favours
television operators, and wants the government to introduce more
commercial TV networks. (Subtext: it doesn’t want to pay a big price to
buy the Ten Network, which it would need to do to give it parity with a
likely Nine/ACP/Fairfax combine).

Seven: Has told the government, according to today’s Financial Review,
that it opposes removal of the cross-media ownership limits unless
“there are measures to prevent the industry’s biggest proprietors using
mergers to cement their dominance”. (Subtext: Seven would be dwarfed in
the likely consolidation scenario that would follow scrapping the cross
media – Nine/ACP/Fairfax and News/Ten).

National Party:
Is increasing the heat on the government to water down its cross-media
proposals for regional Australia. (Subtext: National MPs are appalled
at the prospect of fewer media owners exerting even more power in their
regions).

This leaves just PBL and Fairfax (who have plans afoot
to merge their TV, newspaper and possibly magazine assets into a new
entity) itching to go. This isn’t anywhere enough support for a highly
contentious plan that would radically reduce diversity of media
ownership.

Which leaves the government to address the most
pressing issue – conversion from analog to digital – while pretending
it is being reformist. That polite charade began yesterday when
Communications Minister Helen Coonan announced that ownership rule changes were “certainly not the centrepiece of this package”.

Sure.

Peter Fray

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