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media matters « Previous | |Next »
June 19, 2006

I notice that Rupert Murdoch and News Corp has come out against the Howard Government's proposed media reforms, thereby undercutting industry consensus (of the cosy club that runs the media in Australia), which was seen as a way to dismantle existing ownership rules. Murdock sees the deregulatory reforms as highly discriminatory and lacking in competition for free-to-air television.nes Ltd argue that the proposed reforms refuse to allow a fourth network; do not give big cuts to the list of sports events that must be offered fitrst to free-to-air networks before they can be shown on pay TV (Foxtel) and unfairly favours TV companies over print owners.

News Corp is a newspaper industry in Australia as it only has a 25% stake in Foxtel. Newspapers are a sunset industry with resources being pulled, journalists downsized, hack journalism, advertising shifting to the internet and returns to shareholders falling. The steady decline in the Canberra Times to a rural town newspaper with a poor online presence illustrates this.

Opening up the free to air market to a fourth network is what the Howard Government has consistently rejected. Howard has also said that he would not waste political capital on media reform unless the changes were supported across the industry. This leaves Helen Coonan, the Communications MInister, with the problem of which media moguls to side with (Packer and Stokes, or Murdoch), if she hopes to get her reforms through Parliament this year.

But isn't news Ltd part of the sheltered media workshop protected from the cold winds of market competition?

I presume that the real issue is is the new datacasting licences and how all the unused spectrum might be used and concessions from the media moguls on data casting is not going to be easily forthcoming. I also presume that datacasting licences, are not going to go to just the established television networks. Hence we have the difference between datacasting and fully fledged television, with the former defined to prevent them from competing with traditional free to air television. So the Howard government is trying to free up the restrictions sufficiently to make datacasting attractive, while also protecting the established cosy position of the free-to-air television networks.

Presumably, freeing up restrictions would allow the delivery of news, entertainment news and information to mobile phones. That would be a considerable threat to News Ltd's core tabloid newspaper business. Why buy a tabloid newspaper? And News Ltd currently has a weak presence in the online world.

All is not well in free-to-air television either is it? It is under significant threat from new media and it will have to find new revenue streams as TV audiences and advertising revenues continue to drop.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:58 AM | | Comments (0)