The only interest Communications Minister Fifield has in obtaining evidence to inform media law changes is when it forms part of a back-room deal.
Reports are that the Government has given its in-principle support for an ACCC review of media, in exchange for Nick Xenophon’s support for the repeal of the 2 out of 3 cross media ownership rule.
This is completely backside-about.
You would think it would be logical for Parliament to have evidence in front of it before it makes decisions with wide-ranging implications for decades to come.
But the Minister for Communications is not known for his logic, his rigour or his competence.
More than a year ago, I publicly called for a thorough examination of the state of the Australian media landscape, noting “there had not been a comprehensive inquiry into ownership, concentration and competition in the Australian media market since the late 1990s”.
I said that “the government should ask an independent body, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, or the Productivity Commission, to assess the state of play so parliamentary decisions about ownership restrictions could be evidence-based”.
The scope of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into broadcasting was to ‘improve competition, efficiency and the interests of consumers’ having ‘due regard to the phenomenon of technological convergence to the extent that it may impact on broadcasting markets’. The inquiry considered the impact of the internet on Australian media and reported in the year 2000, so clearly an update to inform media ownership changes is necessary and well-overdue.
Clearly the facts are not already known, which is why so many disparate reviews and inquiries have popped up to fill the evidentiary void created by the Minister’s inaction.
This Government has been in office for almost four years, which is ample time to have conducted a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to media reform.
The comprehensive review that I called for last year could have been completed by now.
Instead we have chaos and deals, including the deal with One Nation to give balance to white supremacists and anti-vaxxers on the ABC, as well as a deal with Senator Leyonhjelm to legalise online poker.
What’s next – steak knives?