The Minister for Communications and the Minister for Innovation have re-announced the Prime Minister’s announcement last week of the announcement already made by Nick Xenophon, as part of their deal to eliminate Australia's media diversity laws.
Such is the paucity of ideas from this self-proclaimed government of innovation that it has dressed up Nick Xenophon’s back-room sell-out deal on the media ownership changes as a key government innovation measure, and then announced the same set of measures - twice over!
The very notion of innovation goes to what is new and original, so it is woeful indeed that the Minister for Innovation rehashes old and borrowed news as his own.
Even more woeful is that the measures do precious little for innovation because they exclude a number of truly innovative companies from access to the $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Fund. Even Nick Xenophon admits it is ‘blind ideology’ that sees Guardian Australia deliberately excluded from access to funding grants.
Meanwhile, large companies like News Corp Australia and Fairfax can access $10.4 million set aside for scholarships and cadetships.
What is more, the measures and funding runs out in only three years – which may well be before regional Australia actually comes to enjoy the reliable and affordable broadband service that Malcolm Turnbull promised would be delivered last year.
What regional Australia needs for innovation is broadband that works, not just a bit of equipment and a few cadetships.
Yet more questions the Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, must answer on his mess of media ownership deals:
- Why did the Turnbull Government feel the need to re-announce the measures they had already announced?
- Where does the $60.4 million come from, does it come from an existing innovation fund and, if so, what was that previous innovation fund earmarked for?
- How does Turnbull Government justify gifting $30 million to Fox Sports but cutting Guardian Australia out of the fund, given both are Australian companies with a foreign-based parent company?
- Why are news organisations with a foreign-based parent company not eligible for the fund, but are eligible for the cadetship and scholarships program?
- Does the Turnbull Government agree it is imperative that taxpayer support for journalism be ideology-free and, if so, when will it revise its dirty deal with Nick Xenophon?
- Does the Turnbull Government concede that permitting the biggest media companies to consolidate by repealing the 2 out of 3 rule could squeeze smaller publishers out of the market?
- If media mergers that occur after the repeal of the 2 out of 3 rule result in job losses, where are the 200 cadets going to work?
- Where will the 60 regional journalism scholarships go?
- Who are the select universities eligible for the fund?
- When will further details on the deal, who can apply for the fund, and how the fund will be administered, be released?
- What are “business activities to drive revenue and readership”, does that mean advertising, and does it include advertising on social media platforms?
- Do regional media companies have the reliable and affordable broadband they need to enable them to grow their businesses and create more jobs in the digital age?
Nobody believes that decreasing the number of owners and companies in the market will increase the number of media jobs in regional Australia.
This Turnbull-Xenophon deal won’t actually address any of the issues facing regional media long term.
These 60 scholarships are a short term fix for a long term issue. It’s false hope dressed up to make Nick Xenophon look good.
Malcolm Turnbull talks a big game about innovation, but he has proven to be a failure when it comes to delivering more than a slogan.
The Liberal-National Government has no principles or vision for Australia's media and communications sectors, only hand-outs for big business and rotten deals for ordinary Australians.
Labor will hold the Turnbull Government to account for stuffing up the NBN, for attacking the ABC and SBS, and for destroying what precious little media diversity is left in Australia – one of the most highly concentrated media markets in the world.