Bluey (Image: Supplied)

The collapse of Australia's once-mighty free-to-air television networks has been accompanied in recent years by a steady flow of regulatory and financial assistance from the federal government.

Cutting and then abolishing licence fees, cutting and then suspending spectrum fees, handouts of tens of millions of dollars to News Corp's Foxtel, softening rules on pay TV advertising, changing media ownership rules to allow more mergers. Taxpayers have given up $2 billion in the past decade to help Seven, Nine and Ten out, and been rewarded with basket case television companies and an ever-shrinking media sector.

The latest help from Communications Minister Paul Fletcher, announced yesterday but inevitably dropped to one of the beneficiaries, Nine, is to give networks more "flexibility" in how they meet their local content requirements.