Thursday, February 27, 2020

Australia Ripples the Waters as It Relaxes Cross-Media and Foreign Essay

Australia Ripples the Waters as It Relaxes Cross-Media and Foreign Ownership Laws - Essay Example That pithy exchange from the past captures the essence of the present-day debate in Australia triggered by the government announcement of plans to deregulate media after 20 years of controls on foreign ownership and cross-media transactions. The Morley-Jones clash of views between the public service and business orientation of media deferred to old UK conditions, but the same hairsplitting still rings true today and continues to reverberate throughout the world as economic opportunities diminish and competition for scarce resources tighten up. Since almost all sectors of national economies have been served up for foreign interests in the universal drive to generate much-needed foreign investment, governments in many parts of the world, both developed and underdeveloped, are fixing their attention on the media industry as the last remaining enticement for foreign investors. As Australian Sen. Ron Walker puts it: "Media has become the last major industry begging for reform to bring it to the 21st century."2 By inference, the senator is batting for a new scheme that would keep Australian media in step with the times by allowing foreign investment into the arena. Australia is veering towards that exact direction, with the reforms on foreign media ownership and cross-media transactions programmed to take effect in 20073. ... This merger is called cross-media ownership in industry parlance. In the interim, the government conducts a nationwide multi-sector consultation in a desire to accommodate every viewpoint in the reform framework and thus hammer out a final policy that is acceptable to all. The more strident objections, as expected, come from the vanguards of press freedom and the citizens' rights to the widest sources of news and information brought to them without the biases of big business. Big businesses the media firms will indeed become if the set of current restrictions are pulled out. Thus, the debate now raging in Australia's media landscape centers on the basic question: Are the economic benefits promised by the entry of foreign media and liberalization of cross-media rules enough to justify placing at risk the spirit of competition and independence of media This essay weighs the pros and cons of the issue, ranging the Australian media reform plan against that of other countries exhibiting the same inclinations, if only to see which models it can use to improve a framework that would appeal to the cross-section of Australian society. II. Foreign Ownership of Media Under the Australian media reform plan, regulations on media ownership will be relaxed as they involve both Australian citizens and foreigners. All existing restrictions on foreign ownership and control of media will be abolished as well as relevant barriers contained in both the 1992 Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) and the Foreign Investment Policy under the 1975 Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act (FATA)4. Limits on simultaneous ownership of

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