SUBJECT: Media ownership
KIEREN GILBERT: Thanks for your company. Twenty-five of the most senior media executives are in Canberra at the moment, trying to lobby the crossbench and Labor to support the media reforms the Government's introduced. With me is the Communications spokesperson for Labor, Michelle Rowland. Their point is basically that these laws were written at a time when the internet didn’t exist, social media didn’t exist, when you couldn’t broadcast basically via the internet, they're outdated laws aren't they?
MICHELLE ROWLAND: We understand Kieran that there has been tremendous change in this sector, that is well acknowledged. And we've got global online platforms with whom the traditional broadcasters are competing for eyeballs, and in particular that very important issue of ad revenue. At the same time, Kieran, we have the facts, and the facts are that Australia has one of the most concentrated media markets in the world. Most of Australian news and current affairs is still consumed from traditional media sources. And of those sources the wide variety, and in fact the vast majority, of online platforms are actually those traditional sources, so it's the same voices but they're online. The other point I make, Kieran, is that this Government, whilst watering down diversity by some of its proposals here, they're doing nothing to provide comfort and no alternative to put in its place. But I'll make these points as well Kieran, for four years this Government has done barely anything in this area, when we had, before the election last year, we had the first iteration which had removal of the two out of three rule and removal of the reach rule and some local content obligations. Labor said, even at the end of last year, we would be very prepared to wave through the reach rule, acknowledging that that was a piece of deregulation quite frankly that was out of date. So, as at November last year, the Government could have had that in place.
GILBERT: But they're saying this is a holistic package, the two out of three rule for one is outdated. How can you defend Labor's opposition to this in the context of companies that are struggling, I mean you're talking about the status quo that's fine. The downward slide is well and truly apparent in companies likes Fairfax we've seen the job cuts continue. Surely you'd concede that if you're not careful about the regulatory approach, that there will be a consolidation of the market by companies going under.
ROWLAND: Well this goes to the nub of the issue Kieran, which is this Government has said that all the facts are known about these matters. They've flatly rejected any notion that we need to have a broad-ranging review of the regulatory environment itself to ensure that we have a vibrant news and current affairs system.
GILBERT: Do you think the current laws are out of date though?
ROWLAND: I don't think diversity is out of date by any long shot.
GILBERT: So these laws are current event though they were written at a time before the internet?
ROWLAND: Well, quite frankly, we have competition laws in Australia that were written in the 1970s but we don't say that we should abolish competition laws outright Kieran. This Government has gone ahead and said we're going to do all these deals with all these different parts of the media, we're going to call it a holistic package. This isn't a holistic package, this is a grab bag.
GILBERT: But every media outlet agrees...
ROWLAND: Every media outlet agrees because they’ve got something in it for them but here's the nub Kieran. All these media executives dragged here last night by the Government to say 'do your job' in convincing Labor and the crossbench to support this as a package, and twice the Minister for Communications was asked would he split off part of the package to get it through and he refused to answer, so is this a package or not? This guy doesn't know if he's Arthur or Martha and we've got a situation here where the Minister has been in office, this Government has been in office, for four years, they've got nothing else to offer.