MICHELLE ROWLAND MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS
MEMBER FOR GREENWAY
GOVERNMENT SCRAMBLES TO PLAY CATCH-UP ON MEDIA TO-DO LIST
Labor welcomes the COVID-19 relief package for Australian media announced today but notes it is an admission of deep failure by this Government, now in its seventh year.
Australian media was already in crisis before COVID-19.
For years Labor has been calling on this Government to overhaul the policy and regulatory framework and implement a real plan to support Australian content, public interest journalism and regional media in a landscape transformed by digitisation and convergence.
The Government's failure to address these systemic challenges has left the sector exposed to external shocks.
The announcement of a new $50 million Public Interest News Gathering (PING) program comes two weeks after Labor wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister seeking relief for regional media.
It is also an admission the Nick Xenophon-inspired Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund is the failure Labor warned it would be, back when it was announced in 2017. The Government has only itself to blame for the poor results and wasted time.
The emergency suspension of content quotas and the release of an options paper comes three years after the Government first announced the commencement of the Australian and Children’s Screen Content Review.
It is also an admission the Government failed to do its job to modernise the Australian content framework. They say they are “accelerating” work to determine the future extent of Australian content obligations when they could not have gone any slower.
The announcement of licence fee relief and suspension of content quotas relieves pressure for broadcasters but does nothing to support the production sector which is facing massive losses as a result of COVID-19 and dealing with systemic issues related to this Government’s inability to modernise the obligations.
The Minister says “We need to re-emerge [sic] from COVID-19 with a regulatory framework suited to the twenty-first century that recognises today’s competitive landscape”. The fact is we should have gone into COVID-19 with a 21st century framework in place.
When this third-term Coalition Government first took office, they knew Australia’s media laws were broken. The regulator had said so and industry had told them so, yet they failed to act.
Since then their actions have been wholly inadequate for a sector that is essential at all times, but no more so than during a crisis.
Labor supports immediate relief for the media and steps to address systemic challenges still facing it, particularly in regional areas.
It remains to be seen whether this announcement is yet another case of too little, too late, from this Government.
WEDNESDAY, 15 APRIL 2020