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Key players hold out on two-out-of-three rule

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The Australian government’s hopes of securing passage of its media legislation through the Senate looks as remote as it did two years ago, with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and Nick Xenophon Team still holding out on the two-out-of-three rule.

Despite numerous messages of support for the changes by media industry leaders, neither party has budged from its opposition to the government proposal to abandon the rule that prevents a media company from owning a print, radio or television business in a single market.

Without the support of the two parties, the Senate sits in a continued stalemate, with the reform package put forward by the Coalition unable to pass when parliament resumes on Tuesday, August 8 – preventing media consolidation necessary for future profitability.

Already the takeover bid by for Ten Network by two former directors, Bruce Gordon and Lachlan Murdoch, is on hold, as current laws would prevent the purchase because of the pair’s other media interests.

Senator Pauline Hanson was unavailable this week, but a staffer did confirm party’s position on retaining the rule had not changed.

Talking on Mark Latham’s Outsiders program on YouTube on June 5, Senator Hanson said she was attempting to look at the reforms in a balanced, measured way, based on what was right for the country.

“When you look at the major newspapers in this country, 85 per cent of them are owned by just one person. How much control do we want to give to these people?” she said

Nick Xenophon Team has long been against the repeal of the law, but has attended negotiation discussions with the Coalition.

Senator Xenophon presented his own “compromise package” to the government last week, which includes tax breaks for small and regional publications and a tax on social media giants Facebook and Google.

Whether his package will allow the dropping of the two-out-of-three rule remains to be seen. Certainly, the party is not saying anything either way, failing to respond to direct questions from NewsMediaWorks on its position on the rule over the past nine days.

Labor and the Greens have stood in opposition to the reform package since the beginning, because of concerns over diversity.

Media groups have stated unanimously that the reforms are “crucial to bring media regulation into the digital age and preserve the future viability of the sector, which supports more than 30,000 jobs”.

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