Sunday, December 4, 2022

Australia’s New Communications Minister

Industry bodies Free TV and Commercial Radio Australia have welcomed the recently-elected Albanese Government’s announcement of Michelle Rowland as Minister for Communications.

Prior to entering Parliament in 2010 as the Federal Member for Greenway, Ms Rowland was a senior lawyer specialising in competition and regulation in the telecommunications, media and technology sectors. She was appointed Shadow Minister for Communications in 2016.

Bridget Fair, Free TV CEO, said, “I have valued the consistent engagement we have had with Minister Rowland during her time as Shadow Minister and we look forward to working with her in this important portfolio.

“Minister Rowland has extensive experience as Shadow Minister and a background in communications, law, and broadcasting policy, which will be greatly valued in this role as the media industry continues to develop and change in the coming years.

In its 2022 Federal Election Policy Manifesto, Free TV outlined the key policy priorities for commercial television broadcasters, including: legislating prominence of Free TV services on content distribution platforms; renewing and expanding the anti-siphoning list, reducing the broadcast spectrum tax and addressing the future of remote broadcast services.

Free TV says these issues will form the basis for engagement with the Minister over the coming months, and  has welcomed commitments already made by the Labor Government on some of these issues.

Ford Ennals, the chief executive officer of peak industry body Commercial Radio Australia, which represents all commercial stations including ARN, NOVA Entertainment, SCA and Nine Entertainment, also congratulated the Minister on her new role.

“This is an excellent appointment. Minister Rowland has deep media expertise and the radio industry welcomes her stated commitment to bringing Australia’s media laws into the digital age.

“We will be looking to meet with the Minister soon to discuss a broad range of policy issues, foremost of those will be how to ensure listeners can continue to have free and easy access to radio on new devices such as smart speakers and connected cars without undue interference from tech gatekeepers.

“Eighty per cent of Australians listen to commercial radio every week and the industry is a major provider of local news and information to regional areas, so it’s critical that action is taken now to level the playing field with digital platforms.

“The industry also remains focused on removing regulatory inequalities to ensure a sustainable future for commercial radio. One example is the media blackout rule, which prevented election advertising on radio during the final few days of the campaign but did not include digital media. This unnecessary rule has costly implications for our members, and inevitably flows through to the ability to fund content production and newsrooms,” Mr Ennals said.

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