Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has indicated the Coalition is looking to ease media ownership restrictions.
Turnbull is "sympathetic" to calls for less regulation and believes many of the rules are outdated in the internet age.
The sections of the Broadcasting Act that are under consideration are those that prevent a person/entity controlling a commercial television licence, a commercial radio licence and a newspaper in the same area, and that a person cannot control commercial television licences that reach more than 75% of the Australian population.
None of these possible changes should come as a surprise: the Coalition flagged them before the election. The top end of media town is for the most part behind the changes too, making them all the more likely to go through. As Michelle Grattan put it, this agenda is driven by the needs of the old players, not the arrival of new ones.
But the changes won't happen without some dissent. Nationals and regional MPs have already voiced their concern that the changes would mean their local broadcasters are snapped up by the big players. They argue local news content will suffer, as will local media jobs. The notion that internet streaming will fill the news gap is fanciful, they say, in areas that still don't even have reliable mobile phone coverage let alone broadband access.
"Many people in regional areas don't have computers," said Nationals senator John Williams, "especially some of the elderly."
But the moves fit into the Coalition's broader deregulation agenda, and media barons speak louder than poorly connected regional constituents. In the mainstream media ownership landscape, greater concentration is likely.
"Malcolm Turnbull has signalled his support for easing cross-media ownership laws, suggesting platform-specific rules are outdated in the internet age. The Broadcasting Services Act prevented a person controlling a commercial television licence, a commercial radio licence and a newspaper in the same area. It also prevented a person controlling commercial television licences that reached more than 75% of the Australian population."
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