Oz Government Vows to Fight On After Media Bill Defeat

01 July 2003

Australia’s government hopes to renew attempts to relax media ownership law after it failed to gain senators’ support.

The legislation’s path through parliament was halted late last week when the Senate voted against it. The government lacks a majority in this upper chamber and was desperately trying to win over four independents to push through the bill.

Despite eleventh-hour negotiations aimed at securing their support [WAMN: 27-Jun-03], these independents voted against the legislation after the government refused to accept an amendment they put forward. This proposal would have prevented newspaper owners (not least Rupert Murdoch) from owning TV stations.

Under the proposed reform, media firms will be allowed in a single market to own businesses in two of three sectors – newspapers, TV and radio – rather than the current limit of one. Restrictions on foreign companies will also be lifted.

Parliament has now begun a six-week winter break, leaving the government to ponder its next step.

“The government has to decide now whether it will bring back the legislation and try for a second time to get it through the parliament,” said a spokesman for communications minister Richard Alston. “The minister has indicated that bringing the bill back is quite likely.”

The impasse may be resolved if the government chooses to dissolve parliament for an early election – as it is now in a position to do – in a bid to win a majority in both upper and lower chambers.

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff