TV wins in first wave of media reforms
Market watch top headlines
CANBERRA, Nov 30 AAP
November 30 2012, 6:30PM
Australian viewers won't have access to a sixth free-to-air TV network but local broad content will be beefed up as part of the federal government's initial response to an independent review of the media industry.
The response came as the release of the Leveson inquiry report in the UK triggered debate on Friday over journalism standards and media regulation.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said no licences would be made available to enable a fourth commercial free-to-air network.
But he said in the long term the government would consider other potential uses of the channel.
The Seven, Nine and Ten networks will benefit from an extension of their current rebate on broadcasting licence fees by a further 12 months, ahead of moving to reduce the fees permanently by 50 per cent, to a maximum of 4.5 per cent of revenue.
Parliament's approval will be sought to remove the restriction on a person controlling a network of commercial television stations that has an audience reach of greater than 75 per cent of the Australian population.
Changes will also be made to improve Australian content.
Commercial TV multi-channel broadcasters will be required to show 730 hours in 2013, increasing to 1460 hours in 2015 and the 55 per cent Australian content quota for primary channels will be retained.
Free TV chief Julie Flynn said the changes would mean thousands of additional hours of Australian content each year.
She said the networks would continue to push for a "fair and balanced regulatory system that serves viewers' interests".
Meanwhile, opposition communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull said Labor should dump its plans to regulate the print and online media.
The Leveson inquiry report, sparked by the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's News of the World tabloid, has followed Australia's Finkelstein inquiry in calling for an independent self-regulatory body backed by legislation in the UK.
But Mr Turnbull said Prime Minister Julia Gillard should follow British PM David Cameron's lead in talking down the prospects of the government regulating the free press.
"We don't believe there's any need to change the way in which the newspapers are regulated," Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Friday.
However, he flagged the idea of changes to defamation law.
"If a person believes they have been defamed ... and if they raise that complaint with the publisher and the publisher corrects it and apologises for it promptly, then that person should not be able to recover damages unless they were actual financial damages such as specific loss to a business," Mr Turnbull said.
He said he doubted whether Senator Conroy would roll out further media regulation before the federal election in 2013.
He understood the minister had taken a broader package of reforms to cabinet on Monday.
Senator Conroy said further announcements on media reform would be announced in 2013.
By Paul Osborne, AAP Senior Political Writer