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Media Ownership Laws. Origin of regulatory powers o Section 51 of the Australian Constitution states: The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution,

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Presentation on theme: "Media Ownership Laws. Origin of regulatory powers o Section 51 of the Australian Constitution states: The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Media Ownership Laws

2 Origin of regulatory powers o Section 51 of the Australian Constitution states: The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: (i) trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States; (v) postal, telegraphic, telephonic, and other like services.

3 Historical overview o Broadcasting Act 1942 o Trade Practices Act 1974 o Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 o Broadcasting (Ownership and Control) Act 1987 o Broadcasting (Ownership and Control) Act 1988 o Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) o Broadcasting Services Amendment Act s - Australias first specific broadcast media regulations were introduced. 1930s – media ownership rules were introduced in relation to radio broadcasting. 1950s – with the introduction of the TV, radio legislation was extended to TV licences.

4 Early Legislation & Impacts o In 1923, there were 26 metropolitan daily newspapers owned by 21 proprietors. o By 1950, this number had fallen to 15 metropolitan dailies having 10 owners. o By 1986, there were only 3 major proprietors of the metropolitan dailies: Herald Weekly Times Limited, News Limited, John Fairfax Group Pty Ltd. o In 1987, News Limited took over Herald and Weekly Times Limited thus, resulting in only 2 major owners.

5 Australian Government principles

6 o According to the Department of Communications Forward Development Unit (1986), the key principles of the Australian Government are: To avoid undue concentration; To promote local ownership and favour independent licence applicants; To limit foreign ownership and prohibit foreign control; and, To encourage diverse shareholding in licensee companies.

7 Current legislation o Trade Practices Act 1974 Prevents anti-competitive conduct. o Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 Regulates foreign takeovers of Australian businesses. o Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) Regulates ownership of commercial TV and radio broadcasters.

8 Current legislation Objects of 1992 BSA: (a) to promote the availability... of a diverse range of radio and television services...; and... (c) to encourage diversity in control of the more influential broadcasting services... Source: ComLaw (no date)

9 Emergence of New Media o During the 1990s new media began to emerge (e.g. the internet and pay TV). o This emergence was seen by some as illustrating the inadequacies with current legislation. Senator Helen Coonan: laws are outdated and ineffective.

10 Howard-Government o 1996 – Liberal/National Government elected. Government undertakes review of laws. No changes are made. o 1999 – government directs Productivity Commission to conduct an inquiry. o 2002 – government introduces legislation. o 2003 – legislation passed in lower house, but not approved by upper house. o 2004 – federal election. o 2006 – legislation successfully passed.

11 Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Act 2006 o Assented on 4 November o Came into effect on 4 April o Amends Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA). o Aims to modernise Australian ownership laws.

12 Contrast of old and new BSA rules 1/3 platform test. Foreign persons can not control neither commercial nor subscription TV. Statutory control rules (1992) 2/3 platform test. Foreign ownership and control permitted. Introduction of 5/4 voices test. Statutory control rules (2006)

13 Major Media Companies

14 o News Ltd Chairman: Rupert Murdoch. Owns 25% of Foxtel and approx. 70% of major newspapers in Australia. o Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL) Chairman: James Packer. Owns Nine Network and Australias largest magazine publisher. Owns 25% of Foxtel.

15 Major Media Companies o Fairfax Media Chairman: David Kirk. Australian publishing group with no dominant shareholder. Owns 20% of major Australian newspapers. o Seven Network Limited Chairman/ largest shareholder: Kerry Stokes. Owns the Seven Network and Australias second largest magazine publisher.

16 Mergers triggered by change o Television: Seven and Nine both sold 50% of their media assets to private US equity firms. o Newspapers: Seven bought 22% of West Australian Newspapers. News Corp. acquired magazine and newspaper interests of the Federal Publishing Company. Fairfax Media merged with the Rural Press Group. o Radio: 3-way merger between Fairfax Media, Macquarie Media, and Southern Cross Broadcasting Source: The Australian Press council (2008)

17 Increase in concentration of media- ownership

18 Issues with high concentration in media- ownership o Potential abuse of power. o Repressive journalistic culture: Quality of news reporting; Editorial independence. o Loss of diversity of expression.

19 Potential abuse of power o Australia has the most concentrated pattern of media ownership in any western country. – David Denemark (2005) in The Price of Freedom

20 Potential abuse of power o With our newspapers we have indeed supported Bushs foreign policy. And we remain committed that way - Rupert Murdoch, 2004.

21 Potential abuse of power o Do media owners have too much influence in determining the political agenda? Yes - journalists: 71.4% Yes - General public: 61% Source: Roy Morgan Research in Warren (2007)

22 Potential abuse of power o Media moguls have agenda-setting powers. o 20-30% of Australian electorate are swinging voters (Dunscombe, 2004).

23 Potential abuse of power o Media moguls have undue influence over politicians. o 1981 Murdoch Amendments: Australian TV station owners had to live in Australia. Fraser-Government dropped these residency requirements. As a direct consequence of this change, Murdoch was able to retain ownership of his Australian TV station.

24 Repressive journalistic culture Fewer alternate job opportunities Fear for job Self-censorship.

25 Repressive journalistic culture o Do you feel obliged to take into account the commercial interests of your employer? Yes %* * 37.7% of respondents told to toe the commercial line. Source: Roy Morgan Research in Warren (2007)

26 Repressive journalistic culture o Editorial independence and the findings of the PC and ABA. o Do you believe that the new changes will negatively affect reporting integrity. Yes % Source: Roy Morgan Research in Warren (2007)

27 Loss of diversity of expression o The media is not just another business. The commodity it deals in is information, a keystone of democracy. – Colin Stewart (1990)

28 Loss of diversity of expression o A diverse range of views is necessary for a healthy well-functioning democracy. o The governments regulation of media- ownership ensures a necessary degree of diversity.

29 Loss of diversity of expression o Arguments for liberalisation: Unnecessary - new media increases diversity; Ineffective – convergence of old and new media.

30 Loss of diversity of expression Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics in Dunscombe (2004)

31 Loss of diversity of expression o Foxtel dominates pay TV and is owned by News Ltd, Telstra and PBL. o News duplication and redistribution.

32 Loss of diversity of expression o Diversity is a nebulous concept. o Need new diversity tests. o Ownership as proxy for diversity?

33 Conclusion

34 Thanks! Questions?


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