INTERVIEW WITH NINE LOCAL NEWS
5 February 2016
Mitch, what do you make of Nine’s rollout of regional news across the country?
Well look, it’s a terrific development. Too often we hear about job losses in regional areas in the media. So, to have a significant organisation making an investment so that local people can hear local stories is great news.
What does this mean for regional Australia.
Australians love international news, they love national news, but they have a real hunger and craving for local news; stories told by local people. And, these new news services will do just that.
And is it important to have diversity and competition in the market?
Look, one of the underpinnings of media diversity in Australia is having strong Australian media organisations. We want to have Australian media organisations telling Australian stories, and that is part of the bedrock that underpins diversity in the news media.
Is the Government worried about the financial situation facing regional broadcasters?
All Australian media organisations are under some pressure from the internet, from international competition. And what we want to do as a government is help media organisation viability. And one of the ways we seek to do that is through the media law reform we have before the Parliament which is designed to help Australian media organisations get together in ways that best support their viability.
Where is that reform bill up to? When will we see a bit of debate about that before the House?
Well, that legislation has passed through the House of Representatives. It will be before the Senate shortly. I’m disappointed that the Australian Labor Party have decided to be missing in action with this legislation. They’re opposing reform. So I’m engaged in discussions with the Senate crossbench. And the pitch is, essentially, that we want to have good, strong Australian media organisations. And one of the best ways to ensure that that can be the case is to give them the freedom to configure in the ways that support their viability.
Are we likely to see changes to the anti-siphoning laws or list?
Well, Australians are very passionate about sport and the anti-siphoning list does give a degree of comfort that those events will be on-air and free. If there was to be any change to the Anti-Siphoning list in the future, there would need to be, I think, a good community understanding, and also broad parliamentary consensus, and that’s not there at present.
If there was mergers between some of the key media players, what effect do you think that would have on media and regional news in Australia?
Australian media organisations are in the best position to determine what is right for their business, what will help underpin their viability. And what I want to do and what the Government wants to do is to give them some greater flexibility to do that. So, if it makes sense for a couple of Australian media organisations to get together to support their viability, then we’d like to facilitate that. But, importantly in our legislation we have some protections for local news content that, if there were organisations that combine together, we would have new and higher requirements for local news content.
And in terms of Nine and Southern Cross’s affiliation and their roll-out of regional news, what do you think that means for the jobs in the industry?
It’s great that Nine and Southern Cross Austereo are investing in local communities, creating jobs. That’s what media organisations want to see, that’s what the Government wants to see, is strong media organisations employing people locally to tell local stories to the community.