Audience Reach, Ownership Control and Local Content

Discussion of potential changes to the current statutes limiting regarding audience reach and media ownership.

The two main rules that may see change are

Licence area and audience reach

A person must not be in a position to exercise control of commercial television broadcasting licences whose total licence area population exceeds 75 per cent of the population of Australia.

Limitations on control of media operations in a licence area

A person must not be in a position to exercise control of:

  • more than one commercial television broadcasting licence in the same licence area
  • more than two commercial radio broadcasting licences in the same licence area.

A person must not be a director of a company or companies that are in a position to exercise control of:

  • more than one commercial television broadcasting licence in the same licence area
  • more than two commercial radio broadcasting licences in the same licence area
  • a commercial television broadcasting licence and a datacasting transmitter licence.

A person may not hold a directorship in two or more companies which between them exceed these limits. Similarly, anyone who controls a licence or licences may not be a director of another company that controls a licence or licences if control of the combination by a single person would be prohibited.

Source of summary and more info

Thread in previous forum

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Following the announcement of a 6-month affiliation agreement between Nine and WIN talk of the potential for various mergers of media companies has arisen.

Fairfax has today reported:

Federal government to lock down draft Reach Rule laws

The Federal government will finalise and internally circulate its plan for abolishing the rules that stop rural and regional broadcasters from merging within the next three months, according to West Australian Senator Dean Smith.

West Australian senator Dean Smith, chairman of the Coalition’s backbench communications committee, said the government was finalising its plan for scrapping the rule to allow broadcasters to compete against global rivals.

“We are close to landing on a final position over the summer to be able to present a plan internally in the first quarter of 2016,” he told Fairfax Media. "This six-month extension [between WIN and Nine] is a positive sign that as we move closer to the debate on abandoning the Reach Rule that regional media consumer and local content issues will be a priority in the future broadcasting landscape.

As I’ve probably said many times by now - I hope this gets changed along with the lifting of TV restrictions.

Perhaps just making it three (or four) commercial broadcasting licenses with a maximum of one television license, so if you have a TV station you could only have two, but other companies could have up to three.

I think choice - particularly in regional areas with three/four stations - would be improved with less ownership diversity, given that there’s no chance of a sudden increase in available licenses in any radio market.

Given the clout of MRN with the government, and them being in that situation with the ownership of 2UE/GB/CH - I hold out some hope.

I don’t want MacQuarie to lose 2CH despite the Merger with Fairfax, The Future of TV/Radio Ownership can be Beefed up if Only They could buy out the Pacific Star Network and sell 3MP Coz Right Wing Stations don’t Really Perform.

Does this mean it will be scrapped soon or just present a package to parliament.

Labor seem on board with it, so it should pass parliament easy enough once the decisions are made.

Hopefully there’s some appeasement to the Nationals that results in some stronger local content requirements, given that WIN are using the current laws as an excuse to drop local news.

Thanks Moe, I would love to see 9 do regional news I think they would do a good job.

I dont know, given the number of licences that exist is extremely finite, lifting it seems kind of pointless. If there is going to be a concerted effort to increase the number of licences available (especially in regional areas which are pretty poorly served when it comes to radio) then applying a sliding scale might work.

I judge it from the perspective of the current outcome - in markets with competition, they usually just go straight at eachother with their formats, whereas common ownership would allow more diversity of formats.

The three station markets, like Hobart and the Central Coast are good examples of this - instead of three distinct formats, you have 2GO/Star and Heart/HO going at pretty much the same audience. Obviously the better solution would be to flood these markets with more radio licenses - but failing that I’d rather less competition and more choice.

I think the idea of removing the restriction will work in markets where it can self-limit (Cap Cities mainly) - because you simply cant buy the majority of licences.

Where there is only a small number of licences (3-4) all you’re doing is removing voices from already underserved markets. Its made worse when the concentration of licence holders is as it is.

I can’t seeing licence availability increase (particularly regionally) - issuing new radio licences is not an efficient use of spectrum given the Government’s aim to rationalise our spectrum use (and there are more efficient / important uses). If there was a greater push for Digital Radio, that might be a way to increase licence availability (and increase takeup)

Changes to allow total domination of the media landscape in one area or another by one company or another will be, IMO, disastrous.

@Moe - really? I thought HO was more a Hot AC and Heart a AC/Gold format?

I’m listening to HOFM now - they aren’t chasing the audience Heart is. Unfortunately I can’t access the stream to Heart, but they’d be on the Gold Coast feed, so I know what they play simply listening to my LocalWorks station - which is an 80s-based playlist with 90s and newer stuff rounding it out.

I’d say it would be like this:

Sea - 18-34
HO - 25-39
Heart - 30-49

Log coming into the Radio Stations log thread soon.

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As far as I can tell on the Central Coast, Sea are after the 10-25 market, Star 25-54, and GO 35-60+.

GO have recently updated their music logs to lean a bit closer to Star’s music - but IMO competition is the best thing that can happen. Lack of competition breeds complacency, and I think a market like Geelong’s radio landscape is all the worse for the lack of competition.

**Linda Mottram ‏@LindaMottram **
RN Breakfast
Parliament would expect protections for existing local content if reach rule reformed, says @SenatorFifield.

Summary of various report including

The Australian Media reforms on their way

Fairfax Communications minister Mitch Fifield: Media reforms are on their way

The Guardian Changes to Australia’s media ownership laws to be introduced within six months

Key points

Communications Minister wants to introduce a broadly agreed package into parliament that would include changing the two-out-of-three and reach rules. What other elements are in the package are not known.

Abolishing the “reach rule” (no more than 75 per cent of the population) would allow regional TV and radio stations to merge with larger, metropolitan outlets.

Removing the two-out-of-three rule (prevents simultaneous ownership of print, radio and television outlets in one market) would increase the pool of capital available.

Timeframe mentioned varies from “in the first half of this year” to “as soon as possible” - take your pick

Local news: Clearly acknowledged that the package would need to include safeguards to protect local content, especially local news.

“We wouldn’t want to see a situation where in anticipation of the opportunity for mergers that media organisations reduce their local content so we have to make sure that legislation was drafted in such a way to prevent that from happening”

Anti-siphoning: no comment was offered.

Opposition’s position Bill Shorten said to work constructively on reforms but "… we want to make sure that diversity is maintained”

“Another criteria … is making sure that regional Australia gets the services it deserves. I do not want to see Australian media being run out of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and destroying and reducing and diminishing the voice of regional Australia.

“Existing” local content - oh well, I’m sure WIN’s axe is ready to fall across Victoria and Queensland…

I’d make it simple - make a merger/acquisition/major change in shareholding a trigger for more stringent local content rules. So if Prime stay on their own, they can keep putting out 2 minute updates in many markets, while if Southern Cross merge or are purchased, they would need to do 30 minutes a night in all regions, originating from within the state/territory.


While I know it’s not likely to happen, I really hope that a tightening of local content requirements will apply to both metropolitan (remember, Ten is often pretty slack at producing local news in major capital cities) and regional markets.

A rule which requires the local news to be produced from at least within the state/territory of each local area would also be preferable. Situations like Prime7 producing Northern NSW news from Canberra or WIN producing Victorian bulletins from Wollongong quite simply shouldn’t be allowed IMO.

ACMA has released the ‘Media Interests’ snapshot, which can be seen here:

Courtesy radioinfo, which has a lengthy article on this today:

JOURNALIST: So is your aim as Minister to maintain, broadly, the current levels of services delivered to regional Australia. Or might you ask in return for relaxation of other laws that broadcasters actually deliver more to their audiences than they currently are?

FIFIELD: Well the bottom line is that we don’t want to see a diminution of what is provided in regional areas at the moment. What else there may be in addition to that, that’s something that we’re currently taking a look at and having conversations with the regional TV operators and with my parliamentary colleagues.

JOURNALIST: When will we see the legislation, Minister?

FIFIELD: Well when I am confident that it has good prospects of passing through the Senate. I think one of the things we’ve learnt over our first couple of years in government is that the starting point for legislation really needs to be the Senate. It shouldn’t be the last thing a Minister thinks about, it should be the first thing a Minister thinks about. Which is why I’m spending time talking to my crossbench colleagues, spending time talking to my own Party Room colleagues as well.

JOURNALIST: Would you be willing to split the bill to allow the passage of the reach rule, if not the two out of three rule?

FIFIELD: Look I’m keen to see both the reach rule and the two out of three put forward as a package. But look the Senate has a mind of its own and it’s the Senate as a whole that ultimately decides whether a package is split or whether a vote is put on a bill as a whole. So I’m keen to pursue a package, and that’s my intention.

JOURNALIST: On the timing issue, can this wait until after the next election if the Senate can’t get its act together? Or are the economic needs of some of the players in this such that it’s got to be done this year?

FIFIELD: I think it’s important to move quickly. There is no question that media laws are outdated. That’s something that’s accepted by my parliamentary colleagues. It’s accepted by media organisations. That being the case, let’s get on and do it so the media organisations can configure themselves in the way that best supports their viability.

JOURNALIST: Minister, given that we’ve known many of the media companies we now have and that employ us for many years, how different do you think the media landscape will look in a year or two compared to the way it is today?

FIFIELD: The media landscape, even putting aside any change in the media law, is changing day by day. We have Nine and Seven who have commenced live streaming, which really is 100% reach. So that in itself renders that particular media law redundant. But I wouldn’t want to predict what the media landscape will be, because it’s changing so quickly.

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