Crikey editor Misha Ketchell writes:

There a major flaw in Helen Coonan’s “voices” test to protect media diversity, according to the chief executive of one of the media companies likely to be affected by the government’s new media regime.

Coonan’s plan to ensure a minimum of five voices in metropolitan markets and four in regional areas can’t ensure a proper range of media players because it doesn’t define what a significant voice is, DMG Radio Australia CEO Paul Thompson told Crikey this morning.

“If five voices are to be the minimum in a capital city it is very important that each one of those voices be a significant voice. They should be defined in some way. If for example a very small AM radio station with a very small share of the market is to be considered a voice – and it is in the current definition – having five voices, some of which aren’t significant, renders the whole thing a waste of time in terms of considering it a safeguard, because clearly it is not.”

Thompson said he had pointed out the flaw in a submission to Senator Coonan that he also sent to National MP Paul Neville.
“There has been no reference at any point to defining a voice at any time. I think the reason that they haven’t is that it is quite difficult to define the cut off point. What makes a media voice significant? I think they’ve decided it’s too hard to to define. But if there not a hurdle then the concept of voices is irrelevant and of no value.”

The problem will be most significant in metropolitan markets, says Thompson, where the problem of diversity had attracted little attention. “I actually think that in the interests of Australia we don’t want to look back on this and think, gee I wish we got some of this detail right,” he said.

“I think it would be in the interests of Australia that the diversity aspect be looked at more carefully.”

Peter Fray

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