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Fairfax calls for easing media ownership

Fairfax Media wants “archaic” media ownership laws changed as the group’s revenues continue to fall and merger speculation mounts within the sector.

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Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett argues the laws are restricting the modern media industry and failing Australian consumers.

He says maintaining the status quo should not be good enough for the Australian government or the public.

“The archaic media ownership restrictions currently in place in Australia are outdated and outmoded by technical change and shifts in how consumers now source their news and information,” Mr Corbett told the company’s annual meeting on Thursday.

“We believe there needs to be decisive leadership shown by the government on this important issue.”

Mr Corbett said investment in the sector would fall if the legislation was not changed.

Current laws prohibit a broadcaster from reaching more than 75 per cent of the population and prevent one company owning a TV station, radio station and newspaper in the same market.

“Abolishing the reach rules and the two-out-of-three rule which stops anyone owning more than two of a newspaper, commercial TV or radio licence in a major market would reset the competitive base for a modern media industry,” Mr Corbett said.

His comments came as Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said the group’s revenue so far this financial year was down two to three per cent compared with a year ago.

At its Metro Media operations, publishing revenues were down four per cent, but the decline in print advertising had moderated.

But online real estate site Domain’s overall revenue had risen 21 per cent.

Mr Hywood told reporters that although publishing revenues were down, it represented a mitigation in the decline of print, which was positive.

Mr Corbett told reporters that Fairfax did not need a merger with another media company to survive, but if laws were changed then all players would evaluate their position.

Technology had changed so much that news was being moved across all channels simultaneously, in real time, and news agencies, papers and radio stations needed to be able to merge the whole process.

Fairfax has recently been linked to a possible merger with troubled broadcaster Ten Network.

Pay TV operator Foxtel and US cable giant Discovery have also been touted as possible bidders for Ten.

In October, the chairman of radio network Southern Cross Austereo, Max Moore-Wilton, said he was disappointed the government had not reformed the media ownership laws.

He said the lack of change was stopping the radio network providing a better service to its communities.

The Abbott government wants the laws changed, but Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said a lack of consensus among media owners is holding up reforms.

Fairfax shares closed down one cent, or 1.23 per cent, at 80 cents.

Fairfax Media wants “archaic” media ownership laws changed as the group’s revenues continue to fall and merger speculation mounts within the sector.

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Fairfax chairman Roger Corbett argues the laws are restricting the modern media industry and failing Australian consumers.

He says maintaining the status quo should not be good enough for the Australian government or the public.

“The archaic media ownership restrictions currently in place in Australia are outdated and outmoded by technical change and shifts in how consumers now source their news and information,” Mr Corbett told the company’s annual meeting on Thursday.

“We believe there needs to be decisive leadership shown by the government on this important issue.”

Mr Corbett said investment in the sector would fall if the legislation was not changed.

Current laws prohibit a broadcaster from reaching more than 75 per cent of the population and prevent one company owning a TV station, radio station and newspaper in the same market.

“Abolishing the reach rules and the two-out-of-three rule which stops anyone owning more than two of a newspaper, commercial TV or radio licence in a major market would reset the competitive base for a modern media industry,” Mr Corbett said.

His comments came as Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said the group’s revenue so far this financial year was down two to three per cent compared with a year ago.

At its Metro Media operations, publishing revenues were down four per cent, but the decline in print advertising had moderated.

But online real estate site Domain’s overall revenue had risen 21 per cent.

Mr Hywood told reporters that although publishing revenues were down, it represented a mitigation in the decline of print, which was positive.

Mr Corbett told reporters that Fairfax did not need a merger with another media company to survive, but if laws were changed then all players would evaluate their position.

Technology had changed so much that news was being moved across all channels simultaneously, in real time, and news agencies, papers and radio stations needed to be able to merge the whole process.

Fairfax has recently been linked to a possible merger with troubled broadcaster Ten Network.

Pay TV operator Foxtel and US cable giant Discovery have also been touted as possible bidders for Ten.

In October, the chairman of radio network Southern Cross Austereo, Max Moore-Wilton, said he was disappointed the government had not reformed the media ownership laws.

He said the lack of change was stopping the radio network providing a better service to its communities.

The Abbott government wants the laws changed, but Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said a lack of consensus among media owners is holding up reforms.

Fairfax shares closed down one cent, or 1.23 per cent, at 80 cents.