Senate Alcove, Parliament House
3 February 2016
E & OE
Well thanks very much indeed Ray Hadley. And if I could also acknowledge Joan Warner, who does such a tremendous job representing the commercial radio industry. Not just on the Hill but around Australia. So thanks indeed Joan. And also, Adam Lang, the chair of the CRA board.
And Ray. Ray very kindly about a week ago, had his producer call me towards the end of his show and the producer said Ray would love to have you on to talk about your beard. Which I don’t have at the moment. It left on Monday. But it got a little coverage over the summer break. But anyway we did the interview on the beard. As usual, we issued a transcript and where it has subject on the transcript there was one word, “beard.” And one of my colleagues said to me afterwards, why did you do an interview with Ray Hadley on your beard? And I said, I didn’t know you were allowed to say no to Ray Hadley. Only joking. Not that any of us pay the remotest attention to people who are on radio in that sort of position. But it’s great to be here and can I acknowledge my colleagues and do that through the Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, and also the Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
About two years ago I was addressing the Commercial Radio Australia conference in Melbourne. At the time I was the Minister for Disabilities and Ageing. And I was addressing that conference in my capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Communications in the Senate. Ie, the guy who takes questions in the Senate at that time, for Malcolm Turnbull. And I explained to that Commercial Radio Australia gathering that, the position of being the Minister repping the Minister, was the parliamentary equivalent really of being in a casual relationship with a sector. You know, you fool around a bit, sometimes it’s a bit intense, but ultimately you’re committed to another portfolio, which in that case was disabilities and ageing. So I really should thank Malcolm Turnbull in the reshuffle for regularising my relationship with the commercial radio industry.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I actually really wanted to be in radio. When I was finishing uni, that was the first thing that I was looking at. And my old man was a bank manager in North Sydney. He happened to have the account for 2UE at the time. The Lamb family owned 2UE so I went down to 2UE to see John Conde, and he had me spend some time with the general manager of the station, Rod Spargo. Anyway I was absolutely enthralled, sitting in the newsroom, watching the guys there playing basketball, throwing paper aeroplanes, all within seconds of having to go to air to actually deliver their bulletin. So I thought, this is where I want to be. And anyway at the end of the day I sat down with John Conde and I was absolutely crestfallen when he said, “young man don’t go into radio, do something useful with your life.” So anyway, you can be the judge as to whether or not I’ve indeed done that.
But the story obviously for radio in Australia is fantastic. As we saw in the presentation, audience numbers are up and I think the reason for that is that there is something compellingly intimate and immediate and personal with radio, which is very hard to replicate with any other medium. And also with radio, you still have that opportunity for a communal experience, a shared experience at the same time with other people in the community. And as we look back on our earlier years we know that intuitively, we remember particular summers by particular songs that we heard on the radio. Or we remember significant events in the life of the nation by remembering the voice of the person that we heard those through on radio. So radio does have an important future, I think we all absolutely agree with that. And in a sense, we’re all in a bit of demographic lock, we remember our lives often by the memories we have in our head from radio at particular times.
As Ray said, it’s a period of change in how people are accessing media. They have more options. They can access their media in different ways and they’re doing that. And the regulatory environment needs to reflect the changed world that we’re living in. And that’s why you’re hearing an awful lot of talk about media reform. And coming from the disabilities and ageing portfolio I’m a little surprised, I guess I shouldn’t have been, there’s nothing that the media loves more than reporting on the media, when it comes to issues like media reform.
There are some good things that’ve happened. I introduced in the Senate last year and it went through the Parliament yesterday, legislation dealing with streamlining the digital radio planning and license process. And can I thank my counterpart across the aisle, Jason Clare, for his support in that particular endeavour. License fees, Joan wouldn’t let me get out of here in one piece if I didn’t mention license fees and the fact that I am well, well, well aware of the commercial radio views on the subject of license fees. So as we’ve said, that’s something that we’re examining in the context of the budget. I’ve mentioned media reform, but let me just mention one other issue, that being AM FM conversion. Something that commercial radio have spoken to me a lot about, and my predecessor as well who put some things in motion. But I am very pleased to be able to tell you that today, I wrote to ACMA, to ask that they formally commence the process to see that happen. Now obviously there are certain caveats and we need to be careful that there aren’t unintended effects in particular markets. Joan and CRA are well aware of what some of those are. But we have asked ACMA to formally start the process so that this can happen.
Just in closing, a word of advice for Commercial Radio Australia. I was just before over at the ABC’s function and Annabel Crabb who would all know, shortly after I became Minister I was reading one of her blogs. Let me just quote to you something that she had in her blog on The Drum website. Where she referred to and I quote, “The brilliant, powerful and unnervingly handsome new Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.” Commercial Radio could learn something. Anyway there was an asterisk I noticed next to my name, and I looked down the bottom of the article. And next to the asterisk it said “Hello Minister, welcome to the ABC, could we have some money for the drum please.” Anyway Commercial Radio mightn’t say things like that about me but I know they won’t ask me for a dollar. Thanks very much.
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