Thursday, April 20, 2006

Reforms doomed by lack of unity | The Australian

And so long as we're hanging around the backrooms of the Australian's Media & Marketing section,

As mentioned previously, Australian media interests were called to have their say on the Minister's proposals for media reform. Those responses were due Tuesday, but as the authors, John Lehmann and Mark Day, mention, Senator Coonan will continue to receive replies over the next few days. The article goes on to make some conjectures on what we're likely to hear from the various parties when the submissions are finally released to the public, based on open statements and previous intentions.

"Fairfax has expressed an interest in winning a licence for one of the (currently unused digital) channels, using spectrum formerly reserved for datacasting.

The PBL submission is expected to argue strongly that any digital channel must not look like a TV service.

Commercial Radio Australia is also concerned the channels could potentially become clones of free-to-air commercial radio."

"News Ltd, a 25 per cent owner of pay-TV operator Foxtel, would also be expected to oppose new pay-TV services unless the Government scrapped or significantly watered down the anti-siphoning sports list.

Sources say James Packer, whose PBL has a 25 per cent stake in Foxtel as well as owning Nine, is increasingly attracted to the subscription model. This has given rise to speculation he may join News in easing opposition to digital services which compete with Foxtel in return for Foxtel being able to expand on its sporting services."

"Seven wants multi channelling, and Ten gives it limited support only if it can use the spectrum for subscription services.

Nine is opposed, because it fears more signals will add to programming costs and fragment existing audiences, but deliver no extra revenue. While the big players appear united on the lifting of cross media and foreign ownership restrictions, some smaller companies, including Rural Press, are strongly opposed. Rural Press chairman John B. Fairfax said last week that he opposed mergers between radio and TV interests in country areas.

But APN News & Media chief executive Brendan Hopkins has called for the changes to cross-media and foreign-media ownership rules to be made a priority."

Of course, all this sabre rattling and sizing each other up may yet be for nought.

"When he set the media reform ball rolling 15 months ago, the Prime Minister let it be known he was not prepared to "die in a ditch", or expend large amounts of political capital, on an issue that he saw as having limited public impact.

He warned the media industry to "get its act together" or face failure for the third time in its attempts to modernise the highly regulated industry."

Way to take the lead guys. The scary thing? The likelihood that having to buy a digital set top box to watch television is more likely to affect the votes against the government at the next election than a scandal involving tacitly endorsed bribes to a regime in Iraq to buy our wheat, then convincing the public that we needed to invade because the Iraqi's were buying "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and were a threat to us all.

Definitely time for a change, if only to clear the decks. It's just a pity the "other lot" are a pathetic shambles at the moment.

No comments: