News National Abbott says media laws may be relaxed

Abbott says media laws may be relaxed

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· Turnbull questions media ownership rules

Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants to relax media ownership laws, potentially leading to greater consolidation across the sector.

But he is keen to avoid fights with powerful media barons.

“The media world has changed beyond recognition over the last couple of decades and it’s important that regulation evolves to match the changing environment,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“If and when we do seek to change regulation it will be in a deregulatory direction because that’s the instinct of this government.”

Any changes will be put out to wide industry and community consultation before becoming law, Mr Abbott said.

“We’re not interested in picking unnecessary fights,” he said.

“We’re not interested in taking sides between one commercial operator and another.”

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull foreshadowed change at the weekend after meetings with media and telecommunication chiefs.

Among the laws being looked at are those currently preventing individual companies from owning a newspaper, commercial television licence and commercial radio licence in the same area.

Another law being examined prevents individual television networks broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the population – the so-called `reach rule’.

Mr Turnbull moved on Monday to allay fears among Nationals and regional Liberal MPs that local news content may end up diminished.

“Local content is a separate issue to the question of ownership,” he told ABC Radio.

Speaking at the weekend, Mr Turnbull questioned if existing restrictions are relevant in the internet age.

“Why do we need to have platform-specific ownership rules dealing with newspapers, radio and television?” he asked on Sky News.

“My view is that the arrival of the internet, and the additional diversity and avenues for competition that it brings, really says we should have less regulation and more freedom.”

The relaxation of media ownership laws could lead to a series of mergers with leading newspapers potentially joining forces with television networks.

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