Media reform: what got through? After causing so much consternation, the Gillard government’s grand plans for media reform fizzled out yesterday with Stephen Conroy’s office declaring them “finished”. The most controversial aspect of the reform package — the creation of a Public Interest Media Advocate to approve mergers and self-regulation bodies — is off the table for the forseeable future. Plans to abolish the 75% audience reach rule for television broadcasters are also on hold.

Some practical changes did make it through the Parliament, however. These include:

  • The 55% Australian content quota rule for free-to-air TV is enshrined in legislation for the first time. In another first, TV networks will also have to broadcast a minimum of 730 hours of Australian programming on their multi-channels. This will rise to 1460 hours by 2015. This content could be re-runs of old dramas or reality TV shows — a disappointment to many in the cultural sector.
  • The annual licence fee for commercial TV networks is halved and capped at a maximum of 4.5% of gross earnings, reflecting the financial pressures in the industry. And there will be no fourth commercial free-to-air TV channel.
  • The ABC Charter has been updated to include reference to the provision of digital services. The ABC, of course, already has a significant online presence. The change to the Charter, however, provides a bulwark against complaints from online publishers that the ABC is encroaching on their patch.
  • The ABC is legislated as the only provider of government-funded international broadcasting. This means a commercial operator such as Sky News will not be run the Australia Network unless the Coalition changes the legislation in government.
  • At least one of SBS’ non-executive directors must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. — Matthew Knott

Laws fires back at Twitter hate. Radio veteran John Laws has told those who have been critical of an interview he conducted with a s-xual abuse victim to “go to hell”. Laws has been roundly bagged for an interview earlier this week with a woman who said she was abused by five family members, from the age of six to 16. Laws asked the woman if the abuse was “in any way your fault”, whether she had been provocative and whether she was attractive. “My God, they were having a good time with you,” Laws told the woman. The Golden Tonsils defended the interview on air this morning, saying the woman had not been offended by his behaviour.

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Video of the day. Tertiary Education Minister and Kevin Rudd supporter Chris Bowen this morning announced his resignation from the Gillard Government’s front bench.

Front page of the day. Perhaps inspired by The Daily Telegraph‘s “cheeky” campaign for press freedom, The UK Sun gives satire a go.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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