The majority agreed the with main idea of the four bills (in parliamentary jargon, they agreed to read them for a second time). This means that the Senate can now discuss them in more detail.
The four bills were:
- Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2006 (read more in its bills digest and below) ('Media Ownership bill')
- Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2006 (there is no bills digest for this bill)
- Communications Legislation Amendment (Enforcement Powers) Bill 2006 (read more in its bills digest)
- Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2006 (there is no bills digest for this bill).
More on the Media Ownership bill
Of these four bills, the Media Ownership bill is the most controversial.
Main idea of the Media Ownership bill
The Media Ownership bill will introduce new laws relating to cross media ownership and foreign media ownership. Specifically, it will permit cross-media mergers in radio licence areas where sufficient diversity of media groups remains following the merger and remove media-specific restrictions on foreign ownership and control.
The bill states that there is sufficient diversity of media groups if there are at least five separate media groups in mainland State capitals and at least four groups in other licence areas following any merger activity.
What are cross media ownership laws?
Under the current law, a person can't control two types of media (including TV, radio and newspaper media) within the same licence area. For example, one person can't control a commercial television broadcasting licence and a commercial radio broadcasting licence within a particular area. Nor can they control a commercial radio broadcasting licence and a newspaper associated with the area.
A person is considered to be in control of the particular type of media if they have interests in the company greater than 15%.
What are foreign media ownership laws?
There are currently several controls on foreign ownership of Australian media. For example, there are strict limits on the degree of total foreign interest in newspaper ownership as well as a set limit on the interest of any single foreign shareholder.