APN calls for Freer Media Laws | radioinfo

APN calls for Freer Media Laws

Wednesday 29 December, 2004
Brendan Hopkins - pointing the way on new media laws

APN News & Media - Australasia's largest broadcaster - says relaxed ownership laws would pave the way for a much more vibrant media market in Australia.

Chief Executive, Brendan Hopkins, has ruled out trying to buy the Fairfax group, but says a significant easing of foreign and cross media ownership rules would attract more international players to Australia, allowing for the launching of new products.

Hopkins has told The Australian's Glenda Korporaal: "You can't just look upon it as: 'Is someone going to buy Fairfax? Is someone going to buy WA News? Is someone going to buy Rural Press?'

"If the media laws change, you are going to have a lot of companies coming into the market - particularly from overseas - looking to see how they can develop a media business.

"There will be a lot more launches - a lot more vibrancy in the market."

Hopkins believes the Coalition Government - with a Senate majority from 1 July - will end foreign controls on Australian media and allow ownership in two of the three media forms in any market.

He says the potential lifting of restrictions in foreign ownership is "the more exciting change".

"Media companies from around the world that are only allowed to own x per cent - there are restrictions in each sector - will be allowed to come in and buy 100%."

Hopkins says APN is reaching its limits on buying any new radio stations in Australia, given its 50% stake in the Australian Radio Network with Clear Channel Communications.

ARN operates Mix and the classic hits stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. In all, it has investments in 12 metropolitan radio stations in Australia and 94 in New Zealand.

Hopkins says if there is a change in media laws, APN could look at new print products, perhaps with a foreign player.

"We are already a very big media company - we have plenty of assets.

"What will happen is that people will be given the chance to jointly develop into new markets.

"It won't just mean buying companies - it will mean partnering with other companies to launch things."

He says the ideal regulatory change would be to follow the pattern in New Zealand, where companies are allowed to own clusters of stations, rather than the Australian practice of auctioning off licences and limiting owners to two stations per market.

APN has launched several new stations across the Tasman in the past year, including two in Auckland and others in Wellington and several smaller cities.

"New Zealand is the blueprint model which Australia should follow.

"The US used to follow the limited licence model, but it has changed to the cluster model."

Hopkins says the New Zealand model encourages radio proprietors to launch new stations with multiple formats, such as jazz, sport or news, while the Australian model pushes owners into going down the same programming route.

"In New Zealand, because you have so many licences, you can serve your respective markets with a wide variety of formats. Some will be loss making, but you still sustain them because of the overall blueprint of the market.

"But, in Australia, because there are only so many licences available, people tend to go down the same route to try to make a return from a single licence."

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