The fragments of the government’s proposed media reforms most likely to become law are those positive for the major television networks, such as the cut in licence fees and abolition of the outdated “75 per cent reach” limit.
But the proposed “public media advocate” and statutory press standards body are unlikely to see the light of day based on initial reaction from the opposition and crossbenches.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy set a two-week deadline for passage of the reforms. However they won’t be formally tendered to Parliament until tomorrow.
The two biggest winners from the full suite of reforms would be Southern Cross Media and Prime Media Group, according to Credit Suisse media analysts Samantha Carleton and Lucas Goode.
“The potential abolition of the 75 per cent audience reach rule is positive for Southern Cross, as it would enable a merger with Nine or Ten,” Credit Suisse’s analysts said. “A Nine merger would create revenue upside through stronger ratings from Nine.”
Prime Media would also benefit from the abolition of the 75 per cent reach limit – widely considered irrelevant in an age where traditional media is competing against globally available online news sources – because it could merge with Seven West Media Group, unlocking $20-$30 million of synergies, according to Credit Suisse.
Consideration of the reach rule has been shunted off to a parliamentary committee by Conroy, a Yes Minister-style tactic, according to independent member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott.
The halving of licence fees and the commitment to give extra spectrum to community TV rather than a fourth free-to-air network were all seen as positives for Seven, Nine and Ten, particularly as those networks are already all showing more local content than that allowed as a condition of lower licence fees.
The losers under the reforms would be all those impacted by a “public interest test” on mergers and the creation of a statutory press standards body.
News Corporation, the loudest complainer against the proposals, would likely be prevented by the public interest test from acquiring broadcasting assets such as the Ten Network, radio or further regional newspapers such as APN News & Media’s Queensland local papers. The content sharing that News has been testing with Ten’s Meet The Press program would also be threatened.