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Xenophon defends his media reform deal

by
September 14, 2017

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield looks like getting his government's media reforms through.

The Turnbull government's long-awaited media reform package is likely to pass the Senate after a deal was struck with Nick Xenophon.

The government secured a deal with Senator Xenophon on Wednesday night, clinching his crucial block of three votes and paving the way for the bill set to be rubber stamped on Thursday.

The package's centrepiece will allow a person to control more than two out of three platforms - TV, radio or newspaper - in one licensed market.

It will also repeal the reach rule which prevents a person exercising control of commercial television broadcasting licences whose combined licence area exceed 75 per cent of Australia's population.

In exchange for Senator Xenophon's support, the government has agreed to establish a $60.4 million fund for regional and small publishers and increased training for journalists.

"This has been the most difficult, protracted and robust set of negotiations in 20 years of being parliament - state and federal," Senator Xenophon said.

Under Xenophon's agreement, there will be 30 scholarships a year to study journalism, as well as 50 cadetships at regional and small media organisations with up to $40,000 of wages subsidised by the government.

Between 40 and 45 cadets will have to be employed at regional publications.

Senator Xenophon also said Treasurer Scott Morrison will ask the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to hold an inquiry into Facebook, Google and other internet giants' impact on the media industry.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield believes overhaul of pre-internet age laws will boost the long-term viability of Australian media.

"This is not 1988, the internet does exist. The media laws were crafted for an era which today is barely recognisable," Senator Fifield said.

Labor and the Greens are against the "two out of three" rule being scrapped, arguing it will lead to higher concentration of media ownership.

"Senator Xenophon you are better than this dirty deal that has been done at the 11th hour," Labor Senator Sam Dastyari said.

The government already had the support of One Nation on the proviso it would introduce separate legislation to force the ABC and SBS to publish the salaries of employees earning more than $200,000.

One Nation also have an agreement to have the national broadcasters face an inquiry into "competitive neutrality" and the ABC have the words "fair and balanced" inserted into its charter.

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