Date
21 January 2017
Australians watch a lot of digital TV and have gained a reputation as some of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to downloading pirated programs. Photo: internet
Australians watch a lot of digital TV and have gained a reputation as some of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to downloading pirated programs. Photo: internet

Australia signals broad reform of laws on media ownership

The Australian government has signaled sweeping overhauls of media ownership laws that may trigger a flurry of deals as traditional media outlets battle with digital upstarts like Netflix Inc.

Advances in technology such as high-speed internet have rendered the existing laws — many dating back to the 1980s – that govern the A$13 billion (US$9.08 billion) sector largely obsolete, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Australians have flocked to digital entertainment offerings while gaining a reputation as some of the world’s worst offenders when it comes to downloading pirated programs, overseas monitors including the US government say.

“The media laws we currently have are gradually being rendered redundant by both technology and the choices that gives consumers,” Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said Wednesday, promising to unveil legislation in the coming months.

Existing laws, designed to guarantee competition in one of the world’s most concentrated media sectors, prevent a single entity from owning newspapers, radio and television in a single market.

These laws also limit mergers that would allow a broadcaster to reach more than 75 percent of the population of 24 million, even though commercial free-to-air TV networks are now able to stream their services nationally.

News Corp., the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, controls about 70 percent of newspapers in the country.

Australia has only three main free-to-air TV networks — the Nine Network, Ten Network Holdings and Seven West Media — as well as the publicly funded ABC and SBS TV networks.

Previous efforts to overhaul the sector to account for the rise of digital competitors and online streaming have run aground in the face of rivalries among media proprietors and lobbying by them.

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