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Greens act to protect public interest; Private Bill to implement Convergence Review test

Media Release
Scott Ludlam 25 Jun 2012

The Australian Greens will introduce into Parliament this week a Bill to protect the democratic interests of all Australians by implementing a public interest test for changes in control of major media companies, based on that recommended by the Convergence Review and the ACCC.

"If we want to ensure that all Australians benefit from a flourishing, independent, diverse media landscape now and into the future, we have an obligation to start acting to protect that landscape," said Australian Greens Leader, Senator Christine Milne.

"The consolidation of immense media power in the hands of two individuals is a clear threat to free speech and to democracy. If we want Australia to be a country which values diverse views, which has a positive vision for itself as a healthier, cleaner, smarter society, we simply must not let that happen.

"This public interest test for changes in media control is a sensible place to start."

Greens spokesperson for Communications, Senator for Western Australia Scott Ludlam, said "What we're talking about in the case of Gina Rinehart is one individual buying a controlling stake in a media organisation with the clear purpose of shutting down dissent against her other corporate and financial interests and deliberately stifling debate about issues of science, of fairness, of great community interest.

"This Bill implements a combination of sensible proposals from both the Convergence Review and earlier work by the ACCC on applying a public interest test to major changes of media ownership.

"We've long understood the importance of keeping the press free of Government interference, but there seems to have been something of a blind spot about the threat of direct interference by major commercial interests. This bill is intended to go some way to help protect the ability of working journalists to do their job of holding the powerful to account."

The Greens' Broadcasting Services Amendment (Public Interest Test) Bill 2012 would create a new public interest test applying to changes in control of nationally significant media enterprises, defined, as under the existing Act, as organisations that hold broadcast licences or own newspapers, that have:
• control over the media content they deliver;
• an Australian audience of at least 500 000 per month; and
• a minimum revenue of $50 million per year derived from supplying media content in Australian.

The matters to be taken into account in applying the test include:
• whether the outcome of the transaction would diminish the diversity of unique owners providing general content services as well as news and commentary at a national level;
• whether the outcome of the transaction would diminish the range of content services at a national level;
• whether the person(s) taking control of a content service enterprise would represent a significant risk that the content service enterprise would not comply with its obligations;
• the likely impact on editorial independence;
• the likely impact on free expression of opinion; and
• the likely impact on the fair and accurate presentation of news

 

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