Government reveals media law shake-up

Two of the nation’s biggest broadcasters are at odds over what effect an overhaul of ownership laws will have on the media landscape.

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The government on Tuesday unveiled a package of changes that scraps regulation in place since the 1990s and devised before introduction of the internet and pay television.

“They are a relic of a past economy, a past media economy, they have been out of date for years,” prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told parliament of the existing laws.

The changes are expected to unleash a raft of mergers and acquisitions as metropolitan broadcasters eye off their regional affiliates.

That’s because the so-called reach rule, which prohibits a proprietor from controlling commercial television licences which collectively reach more than 75 per cent of the population, will be scrapped.

So too will be the two-out-of-three rule, which prevents a proprietor from controlling more than two of the three radio, television and newspapers in the one commercial radio licence area.

Ten Network chief executive Paul Anderson hailed the package as an important first step in dismantling archaic rules which were making Australian media companies uncompetitive.

But Seven West Media boss Tim Worner was disappointed the government had not “walked the talk” on innovation and the future.

“Media ownership changes might be great for the deal junkies out there but they are not going to ensure a strong future for Australian film and television production,” he said.

“You won’t see one more minute of local content as a result of these changes, in fact you will probably see a lot less, especially in regional Australia.”

In a bid to appease Nationals MPs, the government will introduce a new points system for local content that will apply six months after what it calls a “trigger event”.

Instead of meeting 720 points over six weeks, regional broadcasters will have to meet 900 points.

But there will also be an incentive for local news to be filmed in a local area.

The anti-siphoning regime, which limits a list of important sporting events to free-to-air broadcasters, remains in place.

Labor has previously indicated it will support abolishing the 75 per cent reach rule but has yet to adopt a position on abolishing the two-out-of-three rule.

“We accept and understand that the digital world has changed our media landscape but maintaining the diversity of our media is important,” communications spokesman Jason Clare said.

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