PIJF’s submission to the Senate Inquiry
PIJF has made a submission to the Senate’s Inquiry into the controversial media ownership changes proposed by the Turnbull Government. The proposed legislation would abolish the “75% reach rule” and the “2 out of 3 rule” which have regulated our highly concentrated media. in its submission, PIJF proposes ways to protect independent journalism in the midst of these changes…
Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee
Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform Bill) 2016
Submission by the Public Interest Journalism Foundation
21 March 2016
The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016 is designed to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) to repeal the ‘75 per cent audience reach rule’ and the ‘2 out of 3 rule cross-media control rule’. The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum presents these changes as a modernization of media law, in that they will remove outdated restrictions on the ownership and control of traditional Australian media platforms, and better reflect the range of online sources now available.
The ‘75% rule’
The ‘2 out of 3 rule’
While it is true that the BSA’s restrictions on mergers and acquisitions for Australian media firms are outdated, the emergence of online platforms should not be taken to signal the end of media concentration in Australia, or the end of governments’ responsibilities to ensure a diverse range of sources of news and information for all Australians. Any complacency that technology has solved the media diversity problem is likely to be misplaced.
We note that:
In these circumstances, we recommend some additional measures to protect and monitor the plurality and diversity of Australians’ sources of news and information.
We recommend the Committee’s consideration of the following measures:
3.1 A regular review of media diversity.
Despite a substantial body of commercially-oriented media industry research, we know far less than we should about the diversity of Australian digital media from the perspective of their users. The Foundation recommends that the legislation be amended to require the government to establish an independent committee to review and report every three years, on:
3.2 An independent production fund for public interest journalism
The foundation sees considerable promise for independent journalism which can take advantage of the benefits of online cost structures and market reach. We recommend that the legislation be amended to establish a production fund for independent journalism, designed to encourage innovation and experimentation in digital journalism, especially in regional and rural Australia. Such a fund could make small grants (up to around $20,000) to support public interest. The production fund would be of benefit to private, public and community media bodies and to a wide range of journalists to report topics of public interest. Journalists from within and outside established media companies would apply for funding, based on criteria which reflects the organisation’s mandate to promote public interest journalism. journalistic projects.
There are numerous models for such a production fund, including the UK-based “innovation charity”, Nesta, which began with an endowment and through the National Lottery gained an on-going source of income to foster innovation and a culture of “risk taking” to support projects with long term goals. Another model worthy of consideration is the Bertha BRITDOC Journalism Fund, an international film fund “dedicated to supporting long form feature documentaries of a journalistic nature.” We might also look to the screen production funds in several Australian states or Canada’s Independent Production Fund, which sponsors web-based and television content. These models, and many others, demonstrate how production funds foster creativity and the creation of content for diverse audiences. As business models for quality journalism become increasingly stressed, we recommend greater exploration of these innovative approaches in order to incubate and sustain independent and rigorous reporting.
3.3 Incentives to promote a culture of philanthropy to promote quality journalism
The foundation notes the considerable role philanthropy plays in the funding and promotion of quality journalism in the United States, where as many as 100 independent centres have been established to foster quality journalism and investigative reporting. These bodies now make a significant contribution to the journalistic output of both established and emerging media outlets and add to the breadth and diversity of public interest reporting. Government support, including tax deductibility and the granting of charitable status, plays a role, and offers possible models for consideration in the Australian market.
Thank you for your consideration. The authors and the board of the Public Interest Journalism Foundation would welcome the opportunity to discuss this submission at the Inquiry’s convenience.