Australia's media ownership rules would be significantly
overhauled, if the Convergence Review's recommendations are
accepted by the Australian Government.
Based on a principle of technology neutrality, the Report's
recommendations focus on the regulation of content service
enterprises, which would be limited to only the most substantial
and influential entities delivering professional content which they
Media ownership – minimum number of owners +
The Convergence Review recommends removing the:
the "75 per cent audience reach" rule;
the "2 out of 3" rule;
the "two-to-a-market" rule;
the "one-to-a-market" rule;
and replacing them with a test of the minimum number of owners
plus the public interest. A new communications regulator would be
able to block mergers that are deemed not to be in the public
interest. What is to be regulated is the content rather than the
platform from which it is delivered.
It also recommends local media ownership be regulated through
the minimum number of owners rule, and the 4/5 rule be updated to
take into account all entities that provide a news and commentary
service and have a significant influence in a local market.
A new communications regulator
In addition to regulating media mergers, a new communications
regulator would be able to set media competition rules, and content
standards, except for news and commentary. Unlike the Finkelstein
Report, the Convergence Review recommends that the latter be
regulated through an independent self-regulatory news standard
body. Serious or persistent breaches of the media code could
however be referred to the communications regulator.
Australian content quotas
There would be a new uniform content scheme applying to
free-to-air and subscription TV.
Instead of a minimum expenditure obligation, content service
enterprises would be required to spend a percentage of their total
revenue from professional television-like content on Australian
content. If this isn't practicable, the money could go to new
converged content production fund.
As for radio, the music quotas applying to analogue radio would
be extended to digital radio.
Spectrum allocation and management, and the new sixth
The Convergence Review recommends a common approach to the
planning, allocation and management of both broadcasting and
non-broadcasting spectrum. This would include:
a market-based pricing approach for the use of spectrum, and
one that provides greater transparency when spectrum may be used
for public policy reasons;
spectrum planning mechanisms that explicitly take into account
public interest factors, and social and cultural objectives
currently reflected in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992;
giving the Minister the power to reserve and allocate spectrum
to achieve policy objectives; and
certainty for spectrum licence holders about licence renewal
Commercial broadcasting licensees should also have the
flexibility to trade channel capacity within their spectrum.
As for the sixth planned television multiplex, channel capacity
should be allocated to new and innovative services that will
increase diversity. Existing commercial free-to-air television
broadcasters and the ABC and the SBS should be precluded from
obtaining capacity on the sixth multiplex.
What happens now?
The Australian Government will consider the Convergence
Review's report, along with the Finkelstein Report, but has not
set a date for this, so we shall have to wait and see –
watch this space!
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
Persons listed may not be admitted in all states and
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Businesses that rely on email or SMS for marketing purposes need to be aware of, and comply with, the Spam Act 2003.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).