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Oz FTA nets make government plea

Australia’s free-to-air broadcast industry says the government must implement recommended media law reforms, with particular focus on allowing traditional platforms to compete with emerging players.

Bridget Fair

Free TV Australia, a lobby group for the country’s FTA nets, has called on the government to implement key recommendations from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report.

The ACCC made 23 key recommendations to the government which spanned competition law, consumer protection, media regulation and privacy law.

Some of the recommendations included establishing a specialist digital platforms branch within the ACCC to monitor and investigate potentially anti-competitive conduct by digital platforms.

“We believe continuing scrutiny is necessary given the critical position that digital platforms occupy in the digital economy, their continued expansion and the opacity and complexity of the markets in which they operate,” said ACCC chair Rod Sims.

Free TV’s CEO Bridget Fair said Australia was experiencing unprecedented disruption within broadcast media industry because of the growing dominance of the largely unregulated digital platforms.

“Reform of media regulations is long overdue, particularly in areas such as Australian content quotas and advertising restrictions that penalise commercial Free TV broadcasters,” Fair said.

“The Digital Platforms Inquiry Final Report represents a golden opportunity for the Government to rein in these global monopolies, and at last create a truly level playing field for the benefit of all Australians.”

Free TV pointed out the FTA linear television needed to have regulations which matched other media platforms which would allow it to “meet the social and cultural objectives it is relied upon to deliver.”

It also called for reforms in the Code of Conduct which would allow more equal commercial negotiations. Currently, negotiations between media businesses and the digital platforms prevents the normal commercial negotiations that would ordinarily take place in a competitive market.

Free TV said the enforceable Code of Conduct would help prevent the platforms from restricting the reasonable and sustainable monetisation of Australian media content on their platforms.

It would also enable the appropriate data sharing by companies who get audience, data and financial benefit from the consumption of content on their platforms.

Commercial broadcaster Network 10, which is owned by CBS, backed Free TV’s call to action describing it as a more level playing field between the free to view networks and online content providers.

Paul Anderson

Network 10’s CEO Paul Anderson said Australia’s rules and regulations have not kept up with enormous disruption of the media landscape.

“These rules need to be updated before it’s too late,” he said. “We need to urgently bring about fairer local content rules. We also need much closer scrutiny of the advertising and data practices of digital platforms so that every media company can compete.”

Anderson argued fairer and more flexible local content rules would help producers and broadcasters continue to provide home-grown content across all platforms.

“It’s worth noting that we continue to make this significant contribution to Australian content, production and jobs as we ourselves face increasing competition from a growing number of overseas-based streaming platforms that have no obligation to invest in any local production for Australian audiences,” he said.

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