The Federal Government expects to introduce legislation this year on Prominence, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said yesterday at the National Press Club.
Pressed on why the legisltation would favour one type of company over another she replied, “I think there are two things that are important here. The first is that prominence was a policy that we took to the last election, to legislate a prominence framework. But secondly, we’re doing this as part of a broader media reform agenda to update our laws for the digital age.
“The reality is that smart devices, connected TVs are not what we used to have when I was growing up. It’s not a box sitting in the corner. It is a smart device, which extrapolates large amounts of information. But importantly, it means that local Australian TV services have been made more difficult to find.
“So I’d like to answer your question in this way. I talked in my Address about addressing market failure and being proportionate. This satisfies both. Not only does it ensure that we overcome this power imbalance that exists, but we also address the issue that’s important from a cultural perspective. That we ensure Australians can access local television services more easily. And we know at this time, that is becoming more and more difficult, and will only be exacerbated into the future.”
ASTRA has expressed concerns that the Government “could take control of what and how these Australians watch their TVs with new Prominence legislation.” It commissioned YouGov research which found Australians don’t want the government controlling the order and layout of the apps on their TV.
But FreeTV Australia called those claims “utterly misleading” and argued theissue is about putting the viewer in full control, not being served up viewing choices based on who has paid the most money to be in the line-up.
Minister Rowland rejected the suggestion the proposal was in response to market failure.
“I don’t think this is a question of popularity and it’s never been characterised in that way. This is about updating the regulatory framework for the digital age. As I said, we know that these smart devices are operating in a way that makes it difficult for Australians to access local TV services. That needs to be remedied. And it needs to be remedied in the long term interests of consumers. Consumers are who were most concerned about here. And that is why we took this as an election commitment as part of a suite of media reforms.”
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