Media reforms coming soon: Fed govt

The Turnbull government says it will seize on “open minds” and introduce new media reforms to parliament in the first part of the year.


Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has confirmed he will bring in legislation “as soon as possible” following months of consultation with the sector, as well as crossbench and opposition colleagues.

“What I don’t want to do is introduce a package into the parliament that won’t have the support of the parliament,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

“I want to make sure … given that there are very open minds across the parliament, that we take the opportunity.”

The new laws will reflect “the world that we currently live in”, with Australians accessing their news in different ways.

“The media laws we currently have are gradually being rendered redundant by both technology and the choices that gives consumers,” he said.

Senator Fifield said he will predominantly be focused on the so-called ‘reach rule’ – which prevents broadcasters from reaching more than 75 per cent of the population – and the two-out-of-three rule.

That rule prevents media companies from simultaneously owning print, radio and television outlets in one market.

Media organisations want the freedom to configure themselves the way that best suits their business, he said.

“That’s particularly important for regional operators.”

The minister conceded there would be the expectation any changes to the ‘reach rule’ would come with protections for local content.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Labor will have a “constructive attitude” towards change and will look carefully at the proposed legislation.

He told reporters in Melbourne the party stands for media diversity and a strong regional voice.

“I do not want to see Australian media being run out of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,” he said.

But Mr Shorten acknowledged technology in the media is changing very rapidly.

“We’ve got to make sure our regulation describes the available technology and isn’t describing life 20 or 30 years ago,” he said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was pursuing reforms when he was communications minister, but they were put on ice by his predecessor Tony Abbott who was leaving consensus up to industry.