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Streaming Take-Up Prompts PM To Rejig Media Laws

Streaming Take-Up Prompts PM To Rejig Media Laws

Draft options for an overhaul of media ownership and deregulation of the sector could be presented to Federal Cabinet before Christmas. 

The move has been forced in large part by the lightning changes in the way consumers use and access media, from newspapers to television, and the impact mobile devices are having on the sector.

Media owners have also been pushing for a rethink – and if the current regulations are scrapped it could lead to a round of mergers involving most of our media giants. 

The options put to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield by his department include scrapping the so-called “reach” and “two-out-of-three” rules and reducing broadcasting licensing fees.

The reach rule restricts television networks from broadcasting to more than 75 percent of the population. The two-out-of-three rule outlaws media companies from owning a television station, radio station and newspaper in the same market.

The loss of diversity in the media landscape is almost certain to be a major stumbling block, especially for country MPs already concerned that the city is controlling what radio and television stations broadcast.

Last year 52 percent of Australians used online services to view films or programs – and, with aggressive new players such as Netflix, Stan and Presto entering the market, that figure is expected to rise substantially in the next 12 months.

The loser is free-to-air television which is struggling to compete with the pay-per-view providers.

In a bold move, Channel Nine has decided to broadcast its programs online from next year, in a bid not only to attract more viewers but also circumvent media ownership laws – which do not cover the Internet.

Nine’s decision has thrown media ownership rules in disarray and the Government is now trying to respond ASAP in order to retain some regulatory control of media, while at the same time promoting change and innovation in the industry.

Other television broadcasters are considering following Channel 9’s move, though they haven’t yet revealed any concrete plans. – Chris Castellari