Labor’s new Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland says her Party needs a comprehensive look at the state of the Australian media landscape before deciding whether abolish the two-out-of-three rule, which prevents media organisations from owning a TV station, radio network and newspaper in the same market .
The 2 out of 3 cross media ownership rule was formed in 1987, with good intentions, they prevent cross-media consolidation in licence areas where the three platforms of radio, television and newspapers are present. They were created to ensure a diversity of media voices.
This is a case where historic legislation slowly turns into bad red tape.
This law does not even acknowledge the existence of the internet. Some argue against the abolition of this rule on the grounds of diversity of media. The fact is that there is more diversity than ever, streaming services such as Netflix, new forms of media such as Buzzfeed, are breaking the mould and disrupting the traditional media platforms that were relevant in the 80’s.
“I would also say any amendment [to cross media ownership restrictions] does need to ensure the diversity of Australian voices – that they are there, but they are also heard. That is our bar. We will make our approach based on evidence.”
What more evidence does the Labor party possibly need to cut this red tape? Tim Fischer AO, former Deputy Prime Minister and head of the Save Our Voices campaign said of the laws:
“Faced with rising costs, restrictions on what economies of scale can be achieved and increased competition in regional licence areas, regional broadcasters have limited options to manage costs and remain viable.”
“Cuts to local content on regional radio and television are inevitable unless our media laws change.”
More regional newsrooms are closing because of this burdensome red tape rule.
The Labor Party are now asking the Government to task the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or the Productivity Commission to examine the laws. This is a delaying tactic. The Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications already held an inquiry into the bills, it recommended that the Senate pass the bill. Labor did not come to a position at the end of the long two-month inquiry, arguing in a dissenting report that they will take the time to review the evidence presented before determining their position on the report.
Institute of Public Affairs Senior Fellow, Chris Berg, in a submission to this inquiry, said:
The Institute of Public Affairs has long argued that the media is over-regulated. This regulation is not suited to a digital age, and that much of this media regulation – particularly that involving spectrum licensing and ownership controls – can constitute a threat to freedom of speech. The ‘75 per cent audience reach rule’ and the ‘two out of three cross-media control rule’ offer no benefits in a world where media technologies are converging and where media businesses see their role as providing multi-platform content across the nation.
The evidence is there, all parties need to come to the table and scrap these redundant laws.