The three main Australian TV networks are fighting to retain their "select few" status as the Federal Opposition, the Australian Labor Party, hints of plans to introduce a new commercial competitor.

A current ban on a fourth commercial licence expires in December 2006 and the opposition is already planning its first moves should it come to power. It insists any new licence would be granted to fresh blood rather than to existing networks or Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. Cross-ownership and foreign ownership legislation prevents the latter from snatching a second licence.

However, the plans of the three extant TV networks are just as well laid. Renaming itself Free TV Australia (from Commercial Television Australia), the group representing the status quo stresses the importance of limited licences to maintain quality television and keep revenues high.

It hopes to convince the public of this in a marketing campaign to be launched later in the year. "Limiting the number of licences recognises the small size of our market" says Julie Flynn, chief executive of Free TV.

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