Australia's newspaper chiefs have warned the Federal Government against making wideranging reforms to media law without consulting the industry.
The Newspaper Works, which represents The West Australian, Australian Associated Press, APN News and Media, Fairfax Media and News Limited, has written to Communications Minister Stephen Conroy stating it opposes any new regulation or legislative change without proper discussion with the sector.
Tony Hale, chief executive of the Newspaper Works, said new regulations could severely undermine the sector's ability to report on matters of public interest.
Mr Hale said the wideranging changes could include the setting up of a media standards body, potential loss of journalist shield law protections, a tort of privacy and changes to media ownership laws.
"We are united in opposing new regulation and legislative changes that affect our ability to report and investigate as well as invest and compete in a digital and multiplatform media economy," he said. "It would be a retrograde step if, at this stage, sweeping changes were announced without proper consultation on proposed changes."
Senator Conroy is running out of time to have Parliament approve a package of media reforms that Cabinet is yet to consider.
It is understood Cabinet could consider the measures today, before Parliament returns tomorrow for a fortnight. It then breaks until Budget day on May 14. After that week, the House of Representatives will sit for four weeks and the Senate for two weeks.
Senator Conroy said on Friday the Government would bring forward media law changes before the September election. To have any legislation pass the Lower House, Labor will need the support of five crossbenchers.
A key change being considered is the removal of a rule that prevents any television network from broadcasting to more than 75 per cent of the Australian population.Also being considered is a public interest test for prospective media owners.
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