Interview with Laura Jayes Sky News – Tuesday, 1 March 2016


SUBJECT/S: Media Reform

LAURA JAYES: With me here in the studio the Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare, of course to talk about media law reform. Jason Clare do you agree that these media law reforms are well overdue? These were in an analogue time and now they are just outdated.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: There are two big reforms the Government proposed today. To get rid of the reach rule and I think there is a very strong argument that it’s out of date and there is a strong argument to say that we should remove that. The Minister made the point today, I’ve made the point as well that at the moment that law restricts Channel Seven, Channel Nine and Channel Ten from broadcasting to more than seventy-five per cent of the country but of course they can stream the same content over the internet to a hundred per cent of the country. So there is a good argument that that is out of date – that should go.

JAYES: The less controversial part of this plan.

CLARE: Absolutely, I’d call it pretty non-controversial. We proposed that when we were in Government three years ago. The other proposed change is the two-out-of-three rule, it’s more controversial. There are good arguments in favour of keeping it and also good arguments in favour getting rid of it and what I’ve said is lets weigh up both sides of that argument by going through the proper parliamentary committee process and the Minister has indicated that that will happen.

JAYES: What are both sides of that argument? What are the draw backs of that happening? Are you worried about it – media diversity in that sense?

CLARE: The argument to get rid of it that the Minister has put forward and the Prime Minister’s put forward is that in an internet age you need scalable businesses that have the potential to be, for want of a better term vertically integrated. They can own a newspaper, radio station and a TV station as well and that makes the company work better.

The argument against it is that diversity matters and the more diversity the better. Even though in an internet age there is more content you can get on the internet there is a difference between the diversity of content you can now get and diversity of ownership. So the argument goes that most of the news content for example that you can get on the internet is still produced and owned by the traditional media companies. Seven or eight out of the ten top news websites you’ll find are owned by Fairfax, News Limited, ABC, Nine, Seven.

JAYES: We are seeing a lot of diversification post Buzz-Feed, the Guardian come online, which is really changed the landscape in a way, but Fairfax is one that is struggling. It’s talking about shutting down some of its printeries. Let’s look at that aspect, wouldn’t this benefit a company like Fairfax which has been around for decades?

CLARE: That’s right. Fairfax is very much in favour of getting rid of the two-out-of-three rule, News Limited very much the same. They think the more discretion, the looser the rules are, the more opportunities for mergers and acquisitions, the better for their business.

Our job as politicians is to work out what is in the public interest. I know what all the different media owners and the different media companies think. Now the job of the parliamentary committee is to find out what the Australian people think.

JAYES: Are you worried about News Corp getting more control?

CLARE: No, not at all. We’ve got to judge this on its merits. We have got to work out what is in the public interest. If you make decisions based on one media company or another then you’re not doing your job properly.

JAYES: Do you think some on the backbench are a bit worried about the Murdoch control?

CLARE: I don’t think so. If you make decisions based on one company, as I said before then you are not really doing your job. Our job is to make laws in the public interest that setus up for the future. There’s one part of this which is uncontroversial. There is another part that is controversial, not because of Fairfax or News Limited or Seven, Nine or Ten or what you see on the front page of a newspaper, it’s about what we want our news organisations to look like and how much diversity we think we need in modern media.

JAYES: Is it fair to say you do have a predisposition to scrap this two-out-of-three rule?

CLARE: No what I’ve said consistently and I’ve said it for eighteen months – we’ve been waiting a long time for the bills to come before the parliament – is that I’ve got an open mind. I can see arguments in favour of keeping it, I can see arguments in favour of getting rid of it, let’s weigh both of those arguments up and go through the proper parliamentary process.

JAYES: What do you want to see out of this process though? I am sure you’ve been lobbied from both sides and we’ve been talking about this ad nauseam for the best part of two years, so what do you hope to get out of this committee? What will the process be like? How long will it take?

CLARE: We don’t know. The Government and the Opposition would have to come together and work out what committee will look at the bill, I presume it is the Environment and Communications Committee of the Senate. Work out a timeframe to look at it. There should be enough time to write written submissions as well as for the committee to hear evidence.

JAYES: So what you’re saying you want to see out of this committee is – you want to hear the concerns or otherwise from the public? Or is there something else you are looking for?

CLARE: Everyone. Media companies will make submissions and they will probably appear before the committee and say this is why the rule should stay or go, but it’s not just the media companies that will have a view on this. There will be people all around the country that will have a view about whether it should stay or go. We need to hear from them.

JAYES: Anti-siphoning is something that of course Foxtel was very keen on seeing something happen there. How do you see this list not changing? I know Mitch Fifield has pointed out that it is an ever evolving list but is this a bit of a missed opportunity? It has been pointed out to me that the laws at the moment dictate that free-to-air has to have every single AFL and NRL match first, or they get the option for it, but most of these matches, I shouldn’t say most but a lot of them do end up on Pay TV. How is that still relevant?

CLARE: It’s a little unusual because even though NRL and AFL are on that list you’ll see some games on free-to-air and you’ll see some games on Pay TV. There are about ten sports, plus the Olympics and the Winter Olympics that are on the anti-siphoning list but there are a lot of games.

JAYES: Why not cut out the middle man, which is the free-to-air networks?

CLARE: Because a lot of people don’t have a Foxtel subscription and a lot of people in Australia love their sport.

JAYES: But they end up on Foxtel anyway?

CLARE: Some of them do, it ends up that half the round is on Foxtel and half the round is on free-to-air and the codes and the free-to-air and Foxtel work out which is which. It’s a brave government that would decide to take sport off free TV before an election. I suspect we are going to hear more about this after the election.

JAYES: Shadow Communications Minister, Jason Clare thanks so much for your time.

CLARE: Thank you.