The Australian government’s plans to relax media ownership law are in doubt after key senators rejected new proposals.
As reported earlier this week [WAMN: 24-Jun-03], the government lacks a majority in the Senate and needs to win over four independent senators to push its media bill through.
However, these independents have rejected the latest suggestions, undermining the government’s bid to have the legislation passed before parliament closes at the end of this week.
“They’re still thrashing out the details of a number of amendments,” declared a spokesman for communications minister Richard Alston. “It’s pretty much a balancing act.”
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. Currently, overseas firms cannot own more than 15% of an Australian TV company or 25% of a newspaper group.
The cross-ownership rules are the biggest sticking point. Critics of the bill believe newspaper owners (such as Rupert Murdoch) should not be allowed to own a TV station in the same city. The independent senators the government is trying to win over voiced concern that the bill would jeopardise media diversity.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff