In all the coverage of the media law changes an important area of influence and profitability has been omitted from discussion and the rules: magazines.

The Australian magazine industry is a multi-billion dollar business dominated by James Packer’s ACP magazine powerhouse. ACP has around 47-49% of the market by circulation or revenue — the Seven Network’s Pacific Magazines is second with a share of around 18% at best. Then there are smaller groups like Emap, Federal Publishing, Time, etc.

Successive federal governments have ignored magazines in their approach to various princes of print and queens of screen rules, or the Meatloaf approach of Senator Helen Coonan and Peter Costello (two out of three “ain’t bad”).

Why? After all, PBL now makes more money out of ACP than it does out of the Nine Network. And ACP makes more money from its magazine business than Kerry Stokes’s Seven Network. In fact ACP by itself would rank in the top five media business in this country.

Are governments and their advisers really saying that magazines have no importance or credibility and shouldn’t be counted?

When it started decades ago, the Australian Women’s Weekly developed into one of the most influential media outlets in the country, rivalling the Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald. It had editorials, stories and spoke for Australian women.

Successive managements under Kerry Packer dumbed down the Weekly, Woman’s Day and other magazines including The Bulletin and turned them into marketing and PR adjuncts of the Nine Network and bland versions of their former selves.

Money makes for power, or as that old adage says, “he who has the gold makes the rules”. ACP Magazines and magazines in general are highly profitable, influential businesses and should not have been left out of the equation by Senator Coonan, the National Party and Peter Costello. Their omission means that PBL and James Packer and his managements will continue to get an enormous advantage over everyone else.

Magazines are undoubtedly a “media” voice. But this government, like the ALP before them, have conveniently forgotten that and the real beneficiaries over that approach are PBL and the Packer family. Again.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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