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Massive media laws shakeup

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September 15, 2017

REGIONAL publishers will have access to $60.4 million under wide-ranging reforms that could shake-up the Australian media landscape.

The last-minute deal was struck between Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and NXT senator Nick Xenophon after extended discussions on the reforms.

The government’s long-awaited media ownership reform package was set to pass the parliament because of the deal. The package’s centrepiece will allow a proprietor to control more than two out of three platforms — television, radio or newspaper — in one licensed market. It will also repeal the reach rule, which prevents a proprietor exercising control of commercial television broadcasting licences where the combined licence area exceeds 75 per cent of Australia’s population.

Damian Trezise, managing director of McPherson Media Group, which publishes the Riverine Herald, said the reforms went in the right direction.

“I’m broadly supportive of the government’s announcement and the recognition it gives to the challenges that local independent news organisations are facing with significant investment in technology,” Mr Trezise said.

“The funding will allow regional and small publishers access to funds that are required to continue to drive multi-platform revenue and readership,” he said.

The $60.4 million fund will be divided into a $50 million regional and small publishers innovation fund, an $8 million fund to support 200 journalism cadets for regional and small publishers and $2.4 million for 60 regional journalism scholarships.

Funding grants would be capped at $1 million per year for any media group and two thirds of funding will be earmarked for regional publishers.

The deal between Xenophon’s NXT Party and the government was slammed by the opposition and The Greens, which remain opposed to the scrapping of the ‘‘two out of three’’ ownership rule.

‘‘The sun comes up in the morning, the sun sets at night, and the Xenophon party will do a deal for some baubles,’’ Labor senator Doug Cameron told reporters.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale said more voices were needed in the Australia media sector, not fewer.

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