Country Report Australia October 1996 Main report

Economic policy: Pub inquiry into media ownership likely abandoned

The federal government claims that it has been unable to secure a chairman for the media ownership inquiry promised during the election campaign. It is likely instead to prepare a green paper (a discussion paper), detailing options for changes to the cross-media rules. While this approach will avoid the controversy of a public inquiry, both the Labor Party and the Democrats have criticised the government for backing away from its election promise. A green paper is also unlikely to result in Senate cooperation for legislative change, with the Democrats claiming that it will give the government too much influence over the options considered.

Australia's existing cross-media rules prevent a company which holds a television licence from controlling a major daily newspaper in the same city market. Any changes to the rules will have substantial implications for two groups in particular: the Fairfax newspaper group and the Seven Network. Currently, companies associated with Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch are blocked from taking control of Fairfax and Seven by these cross-media rules.

© 1996 The Economist lntelligence Unit Ltd. All rights reserved
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