Mar 12, 2013

Government’s media reform package plays it (very) safe

Labor has finally delivered a blueprint on media reform. But there's not much to it, and it wants Parliament to pass it immediately. Stephen Conroy, frustrated by delays, is betting big.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy has announced a minimalist package of media regulatory reforms with the goal of rapid passage through Parliament as the government runs out of time before the election to deliver a comprehensive response to the Convergence and Finkelstein reviews.

The package consists of:

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5 thoughts on “Government’s media reform package plays it (very) safe

  1. Johnny1P5

    So let’s say TEN keep going down as they have been, would the new Public Interest Media Advocate decide that rather than losing a 3rd Commercial TV Network like TEN altogether, that it would be in the public interest to allow Foxtel to buy it and run it as there Free To Air Network (like Sky did in New Zealand with Prime).

  2. Sanjay

    What is the logic of halving the licence fees for TV stations and then doubling the licence fees for mobile phone companies. The fees for mobile spectrum is a direct cost for the consumer and is passed on directly to consumers, where as TV licence fees are passed on to the advertisers if possible. This is a labor government looking after the big end of town while pretending to look after consumers.

  3. Mike Flanagan

    The bastardised Kennedy refrain, ” Ask not what you may expect from Murdoch but rather ask what you may do for Murdoch” should be aptly added to the Australian slang lexicon

  4. ian_pop

    Is the threshold for being considered significant for merger and acquisition purposes to be benchmarked by an average metro commercial evening news bulletin audience?
    I had the impression that the reforms are at least in part required because of the declining relevance of things like the evening news bulletin. If that audience is to decline, the benchmark will get relatively lower over time, capturing smaller and smaller operators.
    It strikes me as an odd measure to use, perhaps even representing the opposite of the point of all this.

    Regulation of an struggling industry that is important to democracy benchmarked on the number of people who are interested in helicopter footage of a traffic jam. Woo!

  5. Richard McLelland

    Mr Keane ought to familiarise himself with the facts about the not for profit community broadcasting sector before offering his opinion on community television. There are thousands of community program makers across all sectors of society including the CALD sector, plus universities and TAFE colleges (students & lecturers alike), and viewers who would strongly disagree with his sentiment about community television (CTV). Not to mention the many volunteers who through open public access to free-to-air television have been able to learn the craft of television production, materially improving their resumes and then been able go on to working in the mainstream television and production industries, either behind, or in some cases in front of, the camera.

    To clarify, community television only uses bandwidth for one standard definition channel, potentially leaving space on the same spectrum for three or four more channels (as technology currently stands), which, as he rightly suggests, can be ‘opened up to the market to see what competition brings’ in the future. However, opening up the spectrum for multichannel use on a national basis would require an immense investment of transmission infrastructure. Given that the existing commercial network operators have already sought and gained concessions on their licence fees, it is clear that there is not the money in commercial broadcasting that there used to be. A fourth commercial network is unlikely to be viable in a marketplace where the Ten Network is already struggling for viewers and is regularly beaten in the ratings by the ABC. It would be a bold media company indeed that started the process of rolling out a transmission chain across Australia in the hope that they might gain a foothold in an already very competitive television landscape.

    CTV does not receive any financial support from the government. Aside from access to a minimal amount of broadcasting spectrum, the provision of community television costs the government nothing. Its broadcasters survive on their wits, doing the best they can in the extremely heavily regulated environment in which they operate.

    The primary purpose of community television is to provide public access to the dominant medium of free-to-air television, allowing interested members of the community to conceive, write and produce television programs that are broadcast to thousands of people. Viewers gain value from having a television service available which is a distinct alternative to other television channels. Community television provides program content that the audience cannot see elsewhere, within the familiar and accessible format of free-to-air television. Community television is an important and worthwhile part of the Australian free-to-air television broadcasting landscape.

    But then that’s the CTV sector’s opinion! We should let the many thousands who participate in making and watching community television have the final word.

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