Tim Fischer to reboot plan for media changes

The Sydney Morning Herald | James Massola | 25 August 2015

FORMER member for Farrer and deputy prime minister Tim Fischer has been drafted in by regional TV networks to take on the Abbott government over stalled media reform plans.

In a sign of the growing disquiet in the bush over the stalled reform process Mr Fischer, a former Nationals leader and ambassador to the Holy See, will take up a role as one of the faces of the "Save our Voices" campaign from September 7.

The "save our voices" campaign was launched by broadcasters Prime, WIN, Southern Cross Austereo and Imparja after Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government put on hold reforms proposed by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Those changes would have abolished the so-called "reach rule", which prohibits TV licence holders from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population.

The changes would also have meant an end for the two-out-of-three rule, which stops a media company from controlling more than two media outlets " television, radio and newspaper " in a single area.

The regional networks have warned that without reform, jobs will be lost in regional newsrooms, causing significant concerns among Nationals MPs including Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, as well as rural Liberal MPs.

The Nine Network and Fairfax Media have also backed change.

But Seven West Media and News Corp oppose changing the laws and the Prime Minister has indicated he is unlikely to support change unless there is consensus in the industry, which is considered an unlikely prospect.

Mr Fischer said he had agreed to take up the advocacy role because "we need strong regional television and strong regional voices for the future of this country".

In a joint statement from Prime chairman John Hartigan, WIN chairman Andrew Gordon, Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley and Imparja CEO Alistair Feehan, the regional networks said regional networks were handcuffed to restrictions that others were allowed to circumvent.

"The major networks and any number of streaming and other services like Google and Netflix can already reach 100 per cent of the population and do so," they said.

"Regional networks on the other hand are still handcuffed to restrictions that were introduced in 1992."

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