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  • Writer's pictureHannah Phillips

Media Laws Look Set to Pass the Senate

The media laws were introduced into the Senate on Wednesday however are likely to go to a vote this week.

There will be a lot of negotiating going on in the meantime.

The prospects are looking good for the new laws to come into force with some amendments.

At the moment the government has two deals on the table.

The first is with One Nation which has agreed to support the critical parts of the legislation including the end of the two out of three rule, which stops the major media organisations from owning all three major platforms (television, radio and newspapers) in the one market, provided the government agrees to cut the ABC and SBS budgets.

There is some sympathy for this position among the commercial media organisations, particularly since the ABC took a commercial contract away from AAP by using taxpayers’ money to tender an uncommercial price for the service.

Communications Minister Senator Mitch Fifield has indicated that he’s not interested in pursuing a deal with One Nation.

The second deal is with the Greens and the Nick Xenophon Team who want to protect the ABC and SBS budgets.

The Greens are obsessed with News Corporation, which they regard as evil personified, but they are prepared to swallow the bitter medicine to protect their biggest media supporter, the ABC.

The Senate vote is complicated by the fact that the Greens are down two Senators because of the dual citizen debacle which caused the resignations of Scott Ludlum and Larissa Waters.

One Nation may also be down a Senator depending the High Court’s decision about whether Malcolm Roberts held dual British - Australian citizenship at the time of the last election and was therefore ineligible to stand.

Senator Xenophon claims to have come up with a package of amendments that can be supported by the other crossbenchers.

He’s offering to trade off support for the two out of three rule in return for a guarantee of more jobs for journalists and camera operators.

This would push the idea that a lack of diversity, which would be entailed by a concentration of media ownership, would be offset by increasing the number of programmes being put to air by media organisations.

The commercial media organisations are likely to push back against this initiative unless the ABC and SBS are subject to the same rules as they are.

At the moment the public broadcasters are cutting programmes in the news, current affairs and drama areas in order to expand their infrastructure so that they can market aggressively against the commercial organisations.

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