The much-anticipated reform of the media in Australia is set to become reality following the publication of government proposals.

Communications minister Helen Coonan has unveiled a raft of changes, including relaxation of cross-media ownership rules. She proposes to allow any company to own a newspaper, two radio stations and a television station in one market and foreign ownership restrictions are scrapped.

Current rules prevent a television licensee from owning more than 15% of a newspaper in its licence area and vice versa. Foreign companies cannot own more than 15% of a TV station or 25% of a major newspaper.

The changes are likely to come into effect either in 2007 or 2010, when the country is due to switch from analog to digital transmission.

Says Coonan: "There is a compelling case for change and if the government does not act, there is a genuine risk that Australia will become a dinosaur."

The reforms, on the agenda for ten years, have been hampered by some political opposition which has consequently slowed the country's progress into the digital age.

Among the major Australian players looking to strengthen their positions as a result of deregulation are Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation and the Packer clan's Publishing & Broadcasting.

The government has asked for media community comments - expected to be broadly favourable - by the middle of next month.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff