Ten, NBN call for action on reform

The Australian Financial Review | Max Mason and David Ramli | 17 November 2015

Ten Network Holdings chairman David Gordon has used his first address to shareholders to call for the removal of all media ownership regulation rather than picking off legislation bit by bit Meanwhile, NBN chairman Ziggy Switkowski also backed scrapping laws preventing media giants from buying their rivals, arguing the rise of internet based content providers has made them irrelevant It comes as the Turnbull government is poised to expedite moves to abolish the reach rule, as revealed by Fairfax Media, preventing TV networks from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the Australian population, before Christmas.

In the free-to-air network's annual review, released on Monday, Mr Gordon, who became chairman of Ten in July, argued piecemeal reform will create its own disadvantages for media companies.

"The free-to-air television industry in Australia is subject to regulation that has been in need of change for some time," he said. "Drawn up in a different era and focused on the regulation of industries and technologies that existed 40 years ago, it now acts to limit and constrain Australian free-to-air networks, while international competitors and other domestic players face no such regulation."

The Department of Communications is believed to be drafting legislation to abolish cross-media ownership laws. Cabinet is expected to discuss the proposal as early as next week.

Labor is said to be divided on media reform with some opposition MPs wary of scrapping the two-out-of-three rule, which prevents media companies from owning a newspaper, TV station and radio network in one market due to a concern that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation could buy up more assets.

'Ten Network has, for many years, argued for the removal of all ownership and control restrictions, so as to free us to better compete in the marketplace," Mr Gordon said. "We are hopeful that the coming year finally sees the wholesale removal of these rules and not a piecemeal tinkering that will of itself only create a new set of distortions and continue to impede our competitiveness."

Mr Switkowski, who has led Telstra and Optus, said it was time for them to go thanks to the rise of the internet and the national broadband network.

"With such a diversity of content delivery options provided via the internet one questions the continuing relevance of the two-out-of-three rule.

"My personal view is I don't see the continuing relevance for the two-outof-three rule or the 75 per cent reach rule in 2015."

View the article on the Australian Financial Review.