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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

the politics of media reform « Previous | |Next »
November 27, 2005

There was an interesting article in Saturday's Australian Financial Review on media reform by Jennifer Hewett and Tony Boyd that highlights the limits of media reform in Australia. They say that both media barons, Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer, are not interested in Communications Minister Helen Coonan's proposed reforms:

While they [Murdoch & Packer] still prefer deregulation of the cross media and foreign ownership restrictions, they don't like Coonan's plan to link this with more competition from new entrants. Murdoch is determined to ensure Coonan doesn't allow unused broadcast specturm to be sold or leased off to become a potential threat to his 25 per cent of pay TV operator Foxtel. Packer also wants to protect his 25 per cent of Foxtel, but he's particularly incensed at any propect that Coonan's plan could mean his....Nine Network...must fight off new kids on the media block.

That's media reform: protect the cosy duopoly of the media barons. Turn away from competition. The political reality is that media reform is about protection of the existing TV operators, with Ministers of Communication being ministers for the media moguls.

What has happened to the basic rules of competition? What has happened to the tough minded neo-liberal economists who advocate efficiently functioning markets. Where is their voice? They are noticeable by their absence.

Will Coonan be any different to previous communications ministers? Will John Howard allow her to be different? What effect will the global shift to the internet, broadband and new digital networks have?

What is off the agenda is a fourth free-to-air network--an Australian verison of Fox--since Murdoch is not interested. What is also off the agenda is multichannelling--it is too much of a threat to Foxtel, Nine and Ten through favoured by Seven. The transfer from analogue to digital TV will keep on being postponed. What remains open is the blocks of sprectrum previously available for data casting as the onerous restrictions, designed to protect the existing networks, end on January 1, 2007.

How much room for movement is there here? Not much. Leasing the spectrum for new digiital content --information services and TV, for hand-held phones, is an option. Connan would lose all crediblity if she allowed the medi barons to bid for the new spectrum then lock it up the way they have the existing airwaves.

So don't hold your breathe for much by way of media reform. The political reality is that we can expect little more than ending restrictions of cross and media ownership while delaying the rest.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:03 AM | | Comments (2)


I don't know why anyone would get pay tv anyway - the package is totally inflexible, and locks u in for a set time period for x amount of money and thats the base package, about one channel you want and heaps you don't

Which in my old man's words - "how would you like your rates doubled?"

Thats effectively all pay tv is.

Now all this talk of AWAs, apply it to pay tv packages make it an australian consumer agreement or something and pay tv might actually take off instead of stagnating

As for reforms the packer-murdoch amendments should stay, but there is no issue with opening the market to foreign ownership


I agree.

I have Foxtel, in the Canberra Office so that I can watch Parliament live. It is very inflexible, expensive and poor service as it the feed keeps on dropping out.

Why would we want to protect that? It should be opened up to competition so that we can get niche markets, regional variations and more consumer choice.