Australia's Turnbull Seeks to Overturn Media Ownership Laws

  • Cabinet approves reforms to be introduced into parliament
  • Changes would scrap limits on TV, radio, newspaper holdings

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government is looking to scrap Australia’s media ownership laws in a move that could pave the way for a string of takeovers in the industry.

Cabinet has approved “the most significant reforms to our media laws in a generation,” which will be introduced into parliament on Wednesday, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield told reporters in Canberra Tuesday. The government is seeking to pass the legislation before this year’s election, he said.

If passed, the reforms will overturn current laws that limit companies to holding interests in two of three media mediums -- television, radio and newspapers --- in one media market. Restraints on city-based free-to-air television broadcasters Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media and Ten Network from operating in regional areas will be overturned, with the limit on broadcasters’ coverage to 75 percent of the population to be scrapped.

The intended reforms don’t include changes to the sports anti-siphoning list, which prevents pay-television companies from buying exclusive rights to broadcast certain live sports. That’s restricted the News Corp.-Telstra Corp. venture Foxtel from acquiring some broadcast rights.

Turnbull’s Liberal-National coalition government, which is seeking re-election this year, currently needs support of rival lawmakers to pass legislation in the Senate.

Nomura Holdings Inc. said in a December 2012 research note that removing the 75 percent “reach rule” could pave the way for consolidation between metropolitan and regional broadcasters.

“In the digital era, these regulations unfairly restrict Australian-based broadcast or publishing companies from optimizing the scale and scope of their operations and from accessing resources, capital and management expertise available to other media operators,” Fifield said in a statement.

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