Australia's proposed media law reform to save local news, jobs

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Fairfax
A man leaves the Fairfax Media headquarters in Sydney August 23, 2012. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

Federal Government has proposed a shake-up of media laws that would scrap the "two out of three" rule. That means an individual may soon have the power to control television, radio and newspapers assets in a single market.

The plan is supported by more than 25 representatives from across the media spectrum. Several Australian media bosses perceive the reform as a way to modernise regulations drafted before the internet.

According to ABC, the country’s top media executives will descend on Parliament House on Wednesday to back up the proposed shake-up. Some are calling for more comprehensive changes to control the influence of social media like Facebook.

“While they may not recognise it fully, I think that consumers are probably feeling the most pain as what they've traditionally enjoyed is very slowly impacting the amount and the quality of the coverage which they've previously enjoyed,” executive chairman of News Corp Australia Michael Miller said. Aside from the "two out of three" rule, the "reach" rule, which stops a single TV broadcaster from obtaining over 75 percent of the population, was proposed to be scrapped.

Network Ten previously declared its viability in the wake of a half-yearly loss. Fairfax Media also made headlines for slashing around a quarter of its workforce, about 120 journalists from The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

Macquarie Media said there must be more talks about achieving a level playing field for Australian media. Its chief operating officer, Adam Lang, said that local media outlets are battling with international competitors, The Guardian and BBC, for instance, as well as with Google and Facebook. Macquarie Media operates Melbourne's 3AW and Sydney's 2GB.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield needs to obtain the suite of measures through Parliament. Fifield described the Federal Government’s proposed media shake-up as the “only comprehensive media plan in town,” which the industry does not only want, but something it also needs.

But Shadow communications minister Michelle Rowland stressed that Labor is still not in favour of some of the government proposals. She argued that the country has one of most concentrated media markets in the world, and traditional media is still the main source of news for the majority of Aussies.

"Whilst the two out of three rule may not necessarily be a rule there for all time, should it be abolished today?" Rowland asked. She said the answer should be no, hinting that the government has not negotiated with Labor properly.

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