Victorian Senator and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield addressed a Melbourne Press Club audience at Crown Casino in March 2016.
Senator Fifield said his changes aimed to free the media from ‘the cast-iron shackles’ of laws established at a time when you could buy both a morning and afternoon paper in Melbourne and a tram ticket from a conductor.
While Australia’s media ownership and control rules hail from the pre-internet era, the Communications Minister said, “digital disruption is now a consumer-driven tidal wave of change” which “we can either surf …to greater prosperity, or allow it to drown us”.
The Minister’s media reform legislation would abolish the ‘75 per cent audience reach rule’ and the ‘2 out of 3’ or 'cross-media ownership rule’, potentially unleashing a wave of new mergers.
The government is negotiating with Labor, which supports the end of the reach rule but not the cross-media ownership provision. Senator Fifield says he is “relaxed” about the implications on media diversity of these changes, given the government intends to keep the ‘5/4 minimum voices rule’ (which proposes there be five independent voices in metropolitan and four in regional markets) and the ‘1 to a market’ and ‘2 to a market’ rules (prohibiting a person from controlling more than one commercial TV or more than two commercial radio licences in the same area).
Overall he claims to be optimistic about the future for Australian media, saying “there will always be a market for quality journalism”.
Read the Minister's speech
Click here to see photos from the event