Reforms give Australia’s media industry a 'fighting chance', secure local journalism jobs

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Transmitting antennas are seen on a mobile-phone network relay mast in Schwindratzheim near Strasbourg, January 14, 2016.
Transmitting antennas are seen on a mobile-phone network relay mast in Schwindratzheim near Strasbourg, January 14, 2016. Reuters/Vincent Kessler

The Turnbull government is strengthening Australia’s media industry and securing local journalism jobs specifically in regional areas as it delivered the biggest reform to the nation’s media laws in almost three decades. It gives Australian media companies a better chance to compete with large online media.

The new measures include the abolition of broadcast licence fees. It will reportedly be replaced with a more modest spectrum charge, providing close to $90 million per annum in ongoing financial relief to metropolitan and regional television and radio broadcasters. It also includes reduction in gambling advertising in times of sport broadcasts.

Furthermore, it includes the abolition of redundant ownership rules, which slow down local media companies’ ability to achieve the scale needed to compete with foreign tech giants. Higher minimum local content requirements for regional television can be expected following trigger event like the introduction of minimum requirements in markets across Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, Western Australia and the Northern Territory for the first time.

The reforms bring the nation’s outdated media laws into the 21st century as the government seeks to enhance media diversity. The “enormous disruption” caused by the internet is now finally being recognised, according to a media release published at minister.communications.gov.au.

The government also recognised that the nation’s media industry has been united in its support for these changes. They will now have the “fighting chance” to secure their future.

The package includes important and permanent financial relief for Australia’s broadcasters as the intense competition they deal with, particularly from online and on-demand operators, is being acknowledged. These companies compete for audiences and advertising revenue.

Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation package

A $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation package will also be implemented by the Turnbull government. It includes a $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation fund, a regional and small publishers cadetship program and 60 regional journalism scholarships.

Legislation will be introduced by the end of this year to give effect to a public register of foreign-owned media assets as well as some enhanced transparency measures for the public broadcasters. It will also give effect to the proposals of Senator Bridget McKenzie to enhance the ABC's focus on rural and regional Australia. Meanwhile, the government has expressed gratitude to the media industry, including WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, Fairfax, News Corp, Seven, Nine, Ten, Foxtel, Free TV, ASTRA and Commercial Radio Australia for their support for these reforms.

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