There’s been considerable speculation over recent days that private equity investors from the United States could emerge as major media players in Australia. But we have a free trade agreement with the US. There are reciprocal rights. Right? Er …

Actually, the precedents suggest that if an Australian or an Australian corporation wanted to buy a broadcast licence in the US, they would be unlikely to get approval for anything more than a 25% holding.

Section 310 of the US Communications Act of 1934, as amended by the 1996 Telecommunications Act, imposes foreign ownership restrictions.

Section 310(b)(4) allows the American regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, to deny licences to corporations controlled by other corporations having more than 25% of its capital stock owned or voted by foreign interests on public interest grounds.

The Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security can get in on the show, too.

It will be interesting to see how Helen Coonan ensures that American buyers of local media assets are treated in the same way that Australian buyers of American assets would be.

Peter Fray

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