The Turnbull Government welcomes the support of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation for the media reform package currently before the Senate.

One Nation will support the package in return for the

Government implementing and introducing legislation, where necessary, to give effect to:

 

  • a public register of foreign-owned media assets;
  • the proposals of Senator Bridget McKenzie to enhance the ABC’s focus on rural and regional Australia;
  • a range of enhanced transparency measures for the public broadcasters, and;

 

a community radio package.

The Government’s comprehensive and holistic package of reforms seeks to give Australian media organisations a fighting chance by freeing them from outdated laws and regulations.

The reforms will give media organisations more options as to how to configure themselves to better support their viability.

The reforms have the unanimous support of the industry including WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo, Nine, Seven, Ten, Fairfax, News Corp, Foxtel, Free TV, ASTRA and Commercial Radio Australia.

Senate colleagues, apart from Labor, have been involved in active discussions with the Government on media reform.

As has been the case for the life of this Senate, it is independent and minor party colleagues who are prepared to constructively engage.

Given Labor is more interested in playing politics while risking jobs and livelihoods, the Government will continue to negotiate with minor party and independent Senate colleagues to secure the passage of this important legislation.

The elements of  the agreement with One Nation are:

Register of foreign  ownership interests in regulated media assets

To increase transparency of  foreign ownership of media assets, the Government will introduce legislation  before the end of 2017 to establish a public register of foreign ownership  interests in regulated Australian media assets. Under this proposal, foreign  persons – as defined in the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 (FATA) – would be required to disclose holdings of 2.5 per cent or higher of  these regulated media assets

The Senator Bridget  McKenzie proposals to enhance the ABC’s provision of services to rural and  regional AustraliaThe Government will introduce  the McKenzie proposals as Government legislation by the end of 2017. These  changes would ensure that the needs of rural and regional communities would  receive appropriate focus by the ABC. Specifically these proposals would be to:

 

  • Insert words into the ABC Charter to  explicitly require a focus on regional Australia;
  • Require the ABC Board to establish a  Regional Advisory Council;
  • Require the ABC Board to consult with  the Regional Advisory Council on service changes which will have a significant  impact on regional audiences in particular;
  • Require the ABC Board to have at  least two non-executive directors who have a substantial connection to, or  experience in, a rural or regional community through business, industry or  community involvement. When appointing non-executive directors to these  positions, the Minister must table a statement in Parliament detailing how the  appointees satisfy this criterion; and
  • Require the ABC to include certain  particulars in its Annual Report, such as a breakdown of rural and regional  versus metro employees, ratios of journalists to support staff and hours of  local rural and regional news broadcasts aggregated by broadcast area.

 

National broadcasters –  competitive neutrality inquiry

The Government will initiate  an inquiry into whether or not the practices of the national broadcasters are  breaching the general principle of competitive neutrality and that they are  operating on a level playing field with their commercial counterparts. The  Government’s inquiry process will examine these issues and make  recommendations.

National broadcasters –  transparency in the remuneration of senior staff and on-air talent

To increase transparency of  the salaries provided to senior staff and on-air talent for our national  broadcasters, the Government will write to the boards of the ABC and SBS  stating that it is Government policy that they undertake regular and ongoing  disclosure of individual salaries and allowances of staff and on-air talent  where their total salary and allowances are in excess of $200,000 per annum. This would follow the recent example of the BBC.

In the event either  broadcaster does not agree to implement this policy, the Government will  introduce legislation before the end of 2017 to amend the Australian  Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 and the Special Broadcasting Services  Act 1991 to give effect to this policy.

A legislative  requirement for ABC news and information to be ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’

Government will introduce  legislation before the end of 2017 to insert the words ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’  into the existing section 8(1)(c) of the ABC Act. This amendment would mean the  relevant subsection would state that it is a duty of the Board: (c) to ensure that the  gathering and presentation by the Corporation of news and information is fair,  balanced, accurate and impartial according to the recognized standards of  objective journalism;

Additional measures to  support community radio

  • The Government will implement  the following additional measures to support community radio:Additional funding to support  community digital radio ($4.0 million over the forward estimates) To support community digital  radio rollout, the Government will provide further funding to the CBP for an  additional two years of $2.0 million in 2019-20 and $2.0 million in 2020-21.
  • Enhanced news programming To assist community  broadcasters to maintain or enhance their provision of news content, the  Government will provide additional funding towards the expansion of the  National Radio News (NRN) service. The Government will provide additional  funding of $0.8 million per annum over four years to the Community Broadcasting  Program (CBP) to implement this measure.
  • Greater emphasis on localism for  licence applications To bolster the amount of  local programming and content provided on community radio, the Government will  introduce legislation before the end of 2017 to amend the criteria against  which applications for community radio licences and renewals are assessed to  specify a role in informing local communities.
  • Improved online presence including the  establishment of a central online streaming portal To support the  community radio sector’s further development and enhancement of their online  presence, the Government will provide additional new funding towards the  industry’s existing CBOnline Project with a focus on supporting the development  of a centralised portal and app. The Government will provide additional funding  of $0.6 million per annum over four years to the CBP to implement this measure.
  • Industry capacity and skills development To support the capacity,  skills and competencies of the community radio sector’s workforce and volunteer  base, the Government will provide additional new funding towards the industry’s  existing National Training Program with a focus on enhancing the management and  small-business skills of the sector. The Government will provide additional  funding of $0.6 million per annum over four years to the CBP to implement this  measure. As well as including  significant regulatory reforms, the above measures represent a package of  additional funding for community radio of $12 million over four years.