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Law delay angers media companies

Media executives expressed their disappointment yesterday at yet another delay in putting the Australian government’s media laws before the Senate.

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Parliament rose yesterday without debating the reforms after the Coalition could not agree to amendments demanded by NXT leader Senator Nick Xenophon, and Senator Xenophon rejected changes in regard to the ABC and SBS that had been agreed to by the government to secure the vote of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is continuing to negotiate with Senator Xenophon, but it will now be at least two weeks before the final legislation is considered by the Senate.

News Corp Australasia executive chairman and NewsMediaWorks chairman Michael Miller said that the delay had put many jobs on the line.

“News Corp Australia appreciates the genuine efforts members of the government, Nick Xenophon’s team and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation team are making to get this reform package passed and good progress has been made,” he said.

“For the sake of the people who work at Australia’s media companies and the communities they serve I sincerely hope the legislation can be passed in the next sitting of parliament.”

Network Ten – the subject of offers to save the company from receivership – was the first impacted by delay, as bids to take over the network close today. The ownership provisions of the existing law would preclude a consortium led by News Corporation executive co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch and WIN founder Bruce Gordon – one of the bidders – from owning the network.

Ten chief executive Paul Anderson said the repeal of the two out-of-three rule and the reach rule had been a point of contention for senators, but this should not be allowed to stand in the way of the passage of the reforms

“Ten Network is extremely disappointed that after years of debate, months of negotiations, and 100 per cent support of the industry the parliament has delayed passage of media reform again, despite a majority of senators expressing a view this week that the antiquated two-out-of-three rule should be abolished,” he said.

“It beggars belief that despite all the evidence of what is happening to Australian media companies, and Ten’s situation in particular, there is little appreciation of the urgency of these reforms.

“Ten has been arguing for these changes for many years. We have made the case repeatedly that the ownership laws are antiquated and anti-competitive and are holding us back in our efforts to compete with some of the biggest companies globally. A majority of senators agree with us, and yet still the laws remain.

“We are particularly disappointed that those who are opposing these reforms do not seem concerned about the impact on the thousands of passionate and talented professionals employed across the industry including in local content creation and quality journalism,” Mr Anderson said.

A spokesperson for Fairfax Media said that while the company still supported the reforms, it would make no further comment at this time.

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