Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Media ownership

Last Crikey's comments section published the following contribution from me;

The reports on the technical legality or otherwise of Lachlan Murdoch’s multiple roles in Australian media overshadow a potentially bigger story.

The various recent forays including the move on TEN, the presence of Seven in CMH, the strange position of Bruce Gordon in both WIN and TEN, the consolidation of radio, the Seven WAN transaction and the continuing uncertainty at Fairfax would seem to suggest that a group of key players really expect the rules on ownership to change soon.

I don’t think for a moment that there has yet been a deal done with Government. It feels far more like these are the pre-emptive transactions before the proposition is put to Government that the rules must change with the NBN, that globalised content and the long tail mean the existing rules are already rendered obsolete.

It really looks like Seven is preparing to acquire Fairfax and that News is preparing to acquire TEN (more likely that a News Corp/Murdoch family/partially listed company will put together the News print assets and TEN). It’s just that the players have decided that they’ll place the Government in an impossible position first rather than negotiate permission.

To a degree I thought it was just my own fanciful murmurings. But today Senator Conroy has outlined in a speech (not yet on his site) that the Terms of Reference for the Convergence Review are

sufficiently broad to allow the committee to cover a wide range of issues that may include:
* licensing and planning, including broadcast licence fees
* public service programming including Australian, children’s and local content obligations
* protection of community standards including broadcast classification and timezones, accuracy and impartiality of news reporting, advertising standards, internet content
* recognising the rights and interests of consumers in the convergent media age, and
* media ownership and control regulations.
(emphasis added)

Based on that Conroy was very right to go on to say;

I don’t think anyone here today would be under the illusion that this is going to be an easy task...

Decisions will need to be made that take into account all of the many opinions and ideas about where we are heading and what is the appropriate regulatory environment.

I know there are many different views about what the regulatory settings should be, and I am confident that the Committee will lay the foundation for a system that will serve Australia’s needs in this converged media age.

Novae Meridianae Demetae Dexter delenda est

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