Cross-media rules no bar to News Corp owning Ten
The media regulator has indicated it would not object to a takeover offer for troubled broadcaster Ten Network from News Corp, but would examine all the Australian media assets owned by the Murdoch family.
In Senate estimates this week, Jennifer McNeill, the general manager of the content, consumer and citizen division at the Australian Communications and Media Authority, was asked whether cross-media ownership rules would prevent Rupert Murdoch's News Corp from buying Channel Ten if he wanted to.
Ms McNeill said media diversity rules prevented someone from owning a commercial TV broadcasting licence, a commercial radio licence and a newspaper in the same city, known as the "2-out-of-3 rule". Media control rules also restrict commercial free-to-air networks from reaching more than 75 per cent of the population.
Ms McNeill told Tasmanian Labor senator Anne Urquhart: "In the hypothetical that you have proposed, in order for that three-way control rule to be breached, it would have to be the case that either News or Mr Murdoch were in control of three of those kinds of media.
"On its face, that alone would not necessarily be problematic, based on the current information we have available to us."
But, Ms McNeill said, the ACMA would also look at the "relationship within the Murdoch family, given the media assets of Lachlan Murdoch".
Lachlan Murdoch, the chairman of the Ten Network, is a director of News Corp and also executive chairman of dmg Radio Australia, which owns radio stations NovaFM and smoothfm.
Senator Urquhart also asked whether there was a fit and proper test for media ownership in Australia, referring to the British regulator's decision to examine whether News Corp was a "fit and proper" owner of the Sky broadcasting licence. The British regulator found it was, but the investigation led to News pulling out of an £8 billion ($13.7 billion) bid to take full control of subscription TV company BSkyB.
"My memory is that the behaviours you have described in the UK were behaviours of considerable age and of a subsidiary. We would obviously have to look at it closely but the time has elapsed and the record of compliance since then would be valid considerations, as would the individuals involved and the chain of control," Ms McNeill said.