Sixty-one per cent of Australians don’t want the 2 out of 3 cross-media control rule to go, yet the Turnbull Government is poised to repeal it.
Australia’s level of media ownership concentration is already one of the highest in the world, yet the Turnbull Government is about to make it worse.
Eighty-five per cent of Australians trust the ABC above all other media businesses, but the Turnbull Government is primed to unleash a disastrous competitive neutrality inquiry to have it gutted.
The way the Government has handled the media ownership debate has been a debacle from end to end.
All the platitudes from the Turnbull Government about supporting industry leaves the public interest in the cold.
Communications Minister, Mitch Fifield, has been trying to repeal the 2 out of 3 rule for 18 months now, but hasn’t been able to do so on merit, so has resorted to a series of grubby back-door deals.
Last night the Senate descended into utter farce when the Government and One Nation voted against amendments that would have secured their own deal. Amendments were moved to bring the One Nation-Turnbull Government deal out from behind closed doors and before the scrutiny of the Senate – and the Senate rejected it. The true price of the legislation was exposed: an attack on the ABC and SBS.
The Turnbull Government, One Nation and Nick Xenophon have signed up to a deal that they’re all too embarrassed to support publicly, and that must be prosecuted in separate stages, lest the tower of deals topple over.
The Senate also exposed Nick Xenophon as the great pretender he is. Nick Xenophon wants to pretend that the media ownership changes he supports have nothing to do with the attack on the ABC and SBS – but he can’t pretend any more. Everyone knows a vote for the Government’s media ownership changes is a vote for the competitive neutrality inquiry to cut the ABC and SBS.
Nick Xenophon also revealed the pitiful price he puts on Australia’s media diversity – $60.4 million – in exchange for his vote to repeal the 2 out of 3 rule. It will be interesting to see where all the new journalism cadets work when the media mergers, consolidations and job losses that follow the repeal of the 2 out of 3 rule occur.
Media diversity should not be traded away in exchange for support for journalism or local content – it is not an either/or proposition – Australia needs both.
Public policy questions of media ownership, media diversity and the future of public interest journalism are fundamental to our democracy, yet the Turnbull Government has conducted this debate behind closed doors.
The Turnbull Government’s chaos and ineptitude is completely contrary to the public interest.
This Government has seriously miscalculated the impact of these dirty deals and how Australians will respond.
They will soon find out.