Oz media regs advance

Proposed changes pass Senate

SYDNEY — The biggest overhaul of Australia’s media landscape in two decades came a step closer to becoming law after controversial proposed changes passed the Senate on Thursday.

The changes, set to go into effect as early as next year, allow foreign companies to buy local media orgs, which was previously banned.

There was also a proposal to abolish cross-media ownership laws, which prevent one company from owning all formats — TV, radio and print — but concerns from Aussie MPs mean companies will be allowed to buy just two formats in any one market.

The media changes require there be a minimum of five news outlets or “distinct voices” in metropolitan areas and four in regional areas.

Opponents of the regs fear greater concentration of the media in a market where there already are too few independent voices. Given the new freedom, predictions are that Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd., owner of Nine Network, may swallow up newspaper publisher Fairfax and that Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd. may make a move into TV.

The legislation now heads to the Lower House, which is a virtual rubber stamp as the government has a clear majority.

Mot everyone fears the changes. Network Ten, which has admitted in the past that it could be either predator or prey, welcomed them.

Topper Nick Falloon said, “Ten has long supported the need to reform Australia’s restrictive and outdated media rules. We believe these changes will lead to more meaningful diversity and allow small and medium-sized media companies to grow and compete.”

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