Media companies front rural inquiry

NITV News home page

NITV News home page

Canberra [AAP]

Australia’s regional media companies will front a parliamentary inquiry to argue the importance of broadcasting and online content in rural areas.

Eight networks, including ABC, Prime, Win and Southern Cross Austereo, will front the public hearing in Sydney on Monday along with representative bodies like Free TV Australia.

In its submission the ABC urges a focus on digital services to rural Australia.

‘Digital applications are increasingly important in informing, educating and entertaining audiences who are shifting away from appointment viewing, switching to mobile and keen to curate their own media experiences,’ it says.

Prime, Win and Southern Cross Austereo jointly argue there is more capacity for regional stations to invest in local content if the licence is owned by a larger metropolitan television network.

The federal government has announced proposed changes to media ownership laws that would make it easier for companies to merge.

The package includes scrapping the two-out-of-three rule that prevents a company controlling more than two of three radio, television and newspapers in an area, and the rule that prohibits a proprietor from controlling a TV licence that reaches more than 75 per cent of the population.

The legislation also beefs up local content obligations, with a new points system that will apply six months after a so-called ‘trigger event’.

Instead of meeting 720 points over six weeks, regional broadcasters will have to meet 900 points but with an incentive for local news to be filmed in a local area.

The public hearing will continue on Tuesday.

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