Media laws in firing line

Malcolm Turnbull. Picture: REUTERS/David Gray

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said he is "fairly sympathetic" to the view that cross-media ownership laws should be overhauled.

He said the Federal Government was "looking very carefully" at changes that could include modification of the 75 per cent reach rule, which restricts television networks to an audience reach of three-quarters of the population.

Mr Turnbull held a meeting with media chiefs on Friday. He told Sky News yesterday that they had put up a cogent argument about the need for change.

"Why do we need to have platform-specific ownership rules dealing with newspapers, radio and television," he said.

"My view is that the arrival of the internet, and the additional diversity and avenues for competition that it brings, really says we should have less regulation and more freedom.

"Why not just leave media mergers and ownership issues to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), to the standard competition monopoly rules that apply?

"We're looking at it very carefully. I think it (that argument) makes a very powerful point."

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the coalition had a "deregulationist instinct".

Tim Worner, chief executive of Seven West Media, owner of _The West Australian _, urged politicians to be careful when making changes, saying "all views need to be heard".

"But we have maintained that we need to see the reforms in their entirety," he said.

"What we need to be extremely careful about is that this is not the first step to a country where you have to pay to watch the footy or the cricket. Or where we have only one or two dominant sources of news and opinion.

"We need to make sure this is not about getting ordinary Australians to pay for what we have always had for free in this country. Australians won't cop that and nor should the Government."

with AAP