The Australian government’s media laws remain stalled in the Senate as Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and NXT leader Nick Xenophon continue negotiations on reforms which News Corp Australasia chairman Michael Miller has described as probably “too little, too late”.
Senator Xenophon wants tax breaks for media companies earning between $300,000 and $25 million a year to enhance media diversity in return for support of the reforms that include the repeal of the two-out-of-three rule, which restricts cross-platform ownership.
A spokesman said Senator Xenophon was open to compromise on the tax breaks, but he remained determined to protect journalists’ jobs and maintain diversity. Senator Fifield presented a revised proposal yesterday but, at this stage, it has not broken the deadlock.
Mr Miller said during a panel discussion yesterday at the INFORM news media summit that the government’s reform package would be of little assistance against the likes of Facebook and Google.
Where it would be helpful, he said, would be in enabling local companies to achieve scale not possible under current laws.
“That’s what Australian media companies are lacking,” he said. “Part of the changes, in terms of reach and two-out of-three, will enable us to reinvest and create scale to compete.
“It potentially is too little, too late… but something is better than nothing,”
Parliament resumed after a two week break on Monday, and it is hoped the media reforms will be debated in this session.
The failure of the laws to pass the Senate last month has been blamed for the rejection of a local bid for Network Ten by News Corp executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch and WIN founder Bruce Gordon.
With the Murdoch-Gordon bid conditional on the passage of the laws, American media company CBS was able to launch a bid that was accepted by the free-to-air broadcaster’s administrators.
However, Mr Murdoch and Mr Gordon have issued a legal challenge to the CBS bid in the NSW Supreme Court. The action has been joined by content supplier 21st Century Fox, of which Mr Murdoch is also co-executive chairman.
The three parties claim that the KordaMentha administrator’s report was deficient, as – among other things – it failed to present alternatives to the CBS bid. The hearing will continue next week, after Mr Gordon was successful in winning a delay in the staging of a second creditors’ meeting. The meeting will now be held on Tuesday, September 19, instead of September 12.