Labor has today offered support for elements of the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016, but cannot accept the Government’s ‘suck it and see’ approach on this narrow and short-sighted legislation.
“This legislation is not about genuine or meaningful reform to address the disruptive challenges facing the media sector, nor does it offer necessary safeguards for media diversity now or in the future,” Ms Rowland said.
“Malcolm Turnbull and Mitch Fifield waited two and a half years in office before proposing this piecemeal package, said nothing about it during the election campaign, and now demand that it urgently be passed.
“This is despite calls from several stakeholders not to pursue this legislation and instead focus on pressing issues such as licence reform, spectrum management and the challenges of content rights.
“Labor believes that in the absence of vision from the Turnbull Government, the pragmatic course of action at this time is to repeal the 75 per cent reach rule, ensuring local content is bolstered following a trigger event, and provide immediate licence fee relief to the commercial broadcasters.
“Once the impact of these changes can be assessed, then the question of media diversity safeguards should be considered properly, in a holistic and genuine reform context.
“The internet has altered the media landscape, but it does not justify discarding important diversity safeguards. The fact is that seven out of the top 10 news websites in Australia belong to traditional media companies. It’s the same voices on different platforms.
“Many Australians also can’t readily access new sources of content through the internet because they don’t have quality, reliable internet access thanks to the Turnbull Government’s flawed rollout of their copper-based National Broadband Network and their stuff-up of the satellite installation process in rural and regional areas.
“Australia’s level of media ownership concentration is already one of the highest in the world and is an enduring concern to the Australian public. A recent Essential Poll found 61 per cent of respondents disapprove of changing the media laws to allow a single controller of all three of an associated newspaper, TV network and radio station in a licence area.
“Labor opposes removing the two out of three rule because it would achieve very little at potentially great cost - further media consolidation and a reduction in the diversity of voices across the media landscape.
“The Parliament should support diversity in the control of our media for the effective functioning of our democracy. The Australian public deserves better than a government that is condemning important media diversity safeguards to the scrap heap in the name of so-called 'reform'.
“The two Senate Inquiries set up to examine the Government's package demonstrate that there is neither the evidence nor the depth of analysis required to justify embarking on a decision with such significant implications for decades to come.
“The media landscape continues to undergo dynamic change. We need a comprehensive vision and the execution of sound principles-based policy to ensure our media laws support a both thriving democracy and a competitive media sector. We have neither under this hapless Government.
“Labor looks forward to continuing engagement regarding the future of our media industry with relevant stakeholders and the Australian people,” Ms Rowland said.