Murdoch Firm Objects To Oz Media Reform Plans

21 June 2006

The bumpy road to Australian media reform has hit another boulder following objections by News Ltd to changes in ownership rules.

Communications minister Senator Helen Coonan, the driving force behind the reforms, has told the Murdoch family-controlled business that its anger at perceived "discriminatory deregulation" is based on a misapprehension and that ownership rule changes were "not the centrepiece of this package".

Coonan claims the core aim is the switch from analog to digital broadcasting.

News Ltd, however - a 25% stockholder in pay-TV operator Foxtel and 110 metropolitan and regional newspapers, among many others - contends the proposed cross media and foreign ownership changes are biased in favor of free-to-air TV broadcasters.

And News spokesman Greg Baxter refutes that there is "any misapprehension on our part".

Furthermore, News, the country's largest media-owner also demands that proposed digital licences, which will create up to 30 new channels, should not "include anything that looks like existing pay TV services".

Coonan had been voicing high hopes last week that the core of the reforms could be law by the end of the year [WAMN: 16-Jun-06].

Also likely to be disappointed by clan Murdoch's intervention are investors hoping for a merger frenzy if the ownership rules are relaxed. They would allow a single company to own one TV channel, two radio stations and a newspaper in the same market.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff