It’s former Labor Premier against former Labor Premier now with Steve Bracks becoming chairman of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association, the pay-TV industry body.

He’ll be pitted against Wayne Goss, who earlier this year joined FreeTV Australia, the commercial networks’ lobbying outfit. This pairing promises a lobbying smackdown of titanic proportions should critical broadcasting reforms return to the political agenda.

Having an ex-premier as front man is evidently now de rigueur in the broadcasting sector, ever since Nick Greiner became ASTRA Chairman five years ago, initially as a two-year appointment.

Greiner and ASTRA were always struggling to convince the former Government of the merits of their position on issues such as the iniquitous anti-siphoning list, but Greiner brought gravitas, profile and always looked like he had a sound understanding the often-labyrinthine regulatory and political workings of the sector. Moreover, it was always cool in meetings when he’d invoke the time-honoured Greinerism “it’s a nonsense.”

Bracks will bring similar qualities. He’s one of the few Labor premiers to escape office with his reputation reasonably intact, he has a good grounding in public policy and he hails from the same state and faction as the incumbent Minister, Stephen Conroy. Like Greiner, people will listen when he talks about the sector.

Bracks’s first task will be to work out what on earth Conroy’s problem is with the pay-TV sector. Earlier this year he spoke about ending the “regulatory holiday” that the sector had, inducing puzzled cries of “there’s a holiday?” from the industry. And recently Conroy speculated about allowing free-to-air networks to broadcast anti-siphoning listed sports on their digital multichannels, further punishing the pay-TV sector and sporting bodies who face a distorted market for television rights. ASTRA chairman is one of the tougher lobbying gigs in the business.

Peter Fray

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