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One Nation Pushes New Media Reform Amendments

As originally reported by The Australian, One Nation Senator Brian Burston says that his party have suggested a new so-called “three-out-of-four rule” as an alternative to the government’s push to repeal the two-out-of-three rule in a recent meeting with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield about media reform.

Burston claims a three-out-of-four rule could allow a single person to control radio, TV and newspaper companies but not a cable television ­network.

A two-out-of-four rule is also said to have been raised as another potential point of compromise.

However, an alliance between the government and One Nation is far from a done-deal at this stage.

“Negotiations are progressing. We’re going to reconvene Monday next week,” Burston said.

Should negotiations break down, the future of the bill looks bleak with both Labor and The Greens set to oppose it.

“Whichever way you look at it, the government proposes to remove important media diversity safeguards which will permit dominant media voices to consolidate even further in Australia’s already heavily concentrated media market,” said Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland.

Still, the possibility of One Nation support for the bill comes at a critical time for major Australian TV network Channel Ten.

Ten entered voluntary administration this week, after key shareholders Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch indicated they would be unwilling to back the company for a loan due in December.

In their statement at the time, Ten cited the media reform package as one of several factors contributing to the network’s financial woes.

They said that “after the changes to regulations anticipated to be tabled in Parliament tomorrow pass through the Parliamentary process, the reduction in licence costs for TEN in FY17 will be in the order of $22 million and, in FY18, $12 million.”

Following the network announcing its shift into administration, Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch have spoken up about offering a rescue package for the network.

The pair recently announced a joint-venture that would allow them to potentially restructure Ten towards profitability but claim that their ability to do so is currently hamstrung by ‘two out of three’ and ‘75% reach’ laws.

Lachlan Murdoch currently owns 7.5% of Ten in shares while Gordon holds 14.6%.

In addition, the Murdoch-linked Foxtel owns another 14% of the network.

Unfortunately, their combined efforts to gain more control over the network may be stifled by more than just trouble in the Senate.

Australia Shareholder Association CEO Judith Fox has openly called for independent directors to added to the executive board of Ten as a matter of urgency.

“Given the substantial conflicts of interest and potential related party transactions at play, ASA believes Ten needs to immediately move to a conventional board with a majority of independent directors,” Ms Fox said in a statement.

According to Fox, “Ten needs to quickly add two new independent directors so the independents have a majority and can out-vote all of the conflicted directors if necessary to ensure the interests of minority shareholders are protected and conflicts of interest are appropriately managed.