No political commitments to regional media campaign

Ray Martin talks to ACM's Antony Catalano for the Save Our Voices campaign

The Communications Minister says the federal government is committed to media industry reform, but has made no promise to remove the "voices test" and other changes sought by regional media companies.

Four major regional media organisations have teamed up in a campaign called "Save Our Voices" led by veteran TV journalist Ray Martin to lobby the government to relax laws which govern how many media outlets a business can own in a specific market.

Publisher ACM (the owner of this newspaper) and broadcasters Prime Media Group, WIN Network and Southern Cross Austereo say federal legislation is out of date and ignores the influence that new online players are having on the viability of their companies and local news services in regional areas.

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher responded to the campaign on Monday saying he valued regional media and pointed out the Liberal government had already delivered significant media ownership reform.

"The government announced in December last year that it was commencing a staged approach to further media reform, moving towards a platform-neutral regulatory framework," Mr Fletcher said.

"This is a large, complex and ongoing piece of work."

Mr Fletcher didn't say whether the voices test, which limits the ability of the existing regional media companies to merge, would be part of reforms considered.

Under the voices test, no person can own more than one commercial TV licence in a licence area, or more than two commercial radio licences in one area.

"We continue to keep under review the question of whether there should be Australian spend requirements on streaming services like Netflix and Disney +, and that there will be further stages of work towards media reform, consistent with what we said in our December 2019 response to the ACCC's Digital Platforms Inquiry," he said.

Labor's Communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland said the government had failed to update Australia's media laws to keep up with the digital era.

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"After seven years, this government still hasn't presented any options or models for reform of regional media," Ms Rowland said.

"The minister's so-called 'reform roadmap', released late last year, doesn't even mention regional media reform - a glaring omission."

Ms Rowland didn't say what Labor's position was on the reforms being sought by the regional media industry, or commit the opposition to specific reforms.

Regional media organisations want changes to laws that limit how many outlets can be owned by one company. Picture: Supplied

Regional media organisations want changes to laws that limit how many outlets can be owned by one company. Picture: Supplied

This story No political commitments to regional media campaign first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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