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Aussie foreign rules on debating table

Change allows greater ownership in media companies

SYDNEY — The government has brought forward plans to change Australia’s cross media and foreign ownership rules.

Communications Minister Richard Alston said the issue will be on the table when Parliament resumes Feb. 11, the first sitting since the November federal election returned the conservative Liberal-National Party coalition to power.

Current laws prevent a foreign investor from controlling more than 25% of an Australian media company and prevent any company owning a newspaper, television and radio station in the same market.

The change would allow Tony O’Reilly’s 40%-owned APN News & Media to takeover Fairfax, the nation’s third-biggest media company, and Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting to expand beyond magazines and TV.

The debate is likely to coincide with findings from a review into datacasting services announced Dec. 19, with the government calling for submissions until Jan. 25.

The digital television framework set up in 2000 requires that datacasting and broadcasting services differ to preserve the pre-2007 moratorium designed to enable free-to-air TV networks make the expensive transition to digital.

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