Chairman of the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association, Tony Shepherd, has called for reform of Australia’s media laws.

Mr. Shepard made the case that Australian media is over-regulated:

“There are regulations giving Canberra a say in what must be spent on TV drama, or how media companies may and may not earn revenue. There are rules governing the advertising of sanitary products and the broadcast of hypnosis – and even rules about how to change rules. Officials can dictate how a business can communicate with its paying customers.

Now imagine the same rules applied to bookshops: another sector which, like subscription TV, is funded by private capital, uses no public infrastructure, and contracts directly with its paying customers. Would we really allow governments to dictate what shelf space is dedicated to fiction, how authors should describe certain matters to their readers, or how shopkeepers may deal with their customers? Free-to-air TV faces many of the same restrictions, plus some of its own.”

Mr. Shepherd also identified regulatory inconsistency in the sector:

“…audiences can be charged to watch many sports if they are streamed over the internet, but not if they are broadcast over the airwaves. The fact that audiences care more about content than technology makes the distinction even more absurd.”

Mr. Shepherd gave an optimistic assessment of the future of Australian media, provided that the government was prepared to make necessary reforms:

“The innovation under way worldwide is breathtaking. The growth of ubiquitous broadband has made TV the new cinema, attracting the best actors and directors from the silver screen to the square screen.

If Australia is to take its place in that market and enjoy the bounty of jobs and innovation available, then the country must embark on an ambitious program of deregulation.”

Mr. Shepard’s recommendations are consistent with the IPA’s Submission to the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications, in which IPA Senior Fellow, Chris Berg, contended:

“…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 IPA welcomes Mr. Shepherd’s comments and endorses the abolition of media laws that are outdated and unsuited to the modern, digital landscape of Australian media.