Former Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader, Tim Fischer AC, and Australia’s four independent regional broadcasters have welcomed comments from the new Minister for Communications, Senator Mitch Fifield that the Federal Government is committed to media reforms.
Mr. Fischer whom is employed as a spokesperson for the 'Save Our Voices' group said: “We are delighted that our new Minister for Communications has indicated that he is in favour of reducing regulation, increasing competition and putting consumers’ interests first as primary factors in considering what needs to change.”
Prime, WIN, Southern Cross Austereo and Imparja are currently campaigning for changes to the Broadcasting Services Act. Which they claim is preventing them from competing fairly with their major metropolitan counterparts.
The legislation, which was introduced in 1992 places limits on the number of different media services one entity can operate in an individual region. The act also dictates that an entity cannot have a commercial broadcasting license that allows them access to more than 75 per cent of the population area of Australia.
The ‘Save our Voices’ group believes that this legislation is restricting regional broadcasters from expanding and does not account for the internet or the fact that major metropolitan TV networks, internet news services and Pay TV now reach 100% of the Australian population via smartphones, tablets, linear streaming services and catch-up TV.
The Seven Network recently announced it would make its 3 channels Seven, 7Two and 7Mate available for streaming, the service will be available nationally including regional markets, but so far Seven has declined to negotiate an advertising shared-revenue deal with its regional partners such as Prime Television.
“To a great extent we already have a broad consensus. The four regional broadcasters, Nine Entertainment Co and Fairfax Media all support the repeal of the 75% reach rule and the two out of three rule.
“Everywhere we look, regional voices are being cut back – at the three main regional networks, but also through cuts at the ABC and among Australia’s many independent regional and rural newspapers,” Mr. Fischer said.
“Local news and information is vitally important, and it must be protected and preserved if regional and rural Australia is to continue to have a voice. Cuts to local content on regional radio and television are inevitable unless our media laws change,”
“Changes to the broadcasting rules are urgently required if regional broadcasters are to compete on the same basis as everyone else in their local markets, and ensure that the big regional issues and important community information continues to get the coverage it deserves for the 9 million Australians living in regional, rural and remote areas.”