Reforms ensure media sector is fair, diverse: Conroy

A NEW public interest advocate will oversee the Australian Press Council to ensure it is enforcing the self-regulation of Australia's press and online media.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy on Tuesday released the government's final response to both the Convergence Review and Finkelstein Inquiry.

Senator Conroy said several changes would be made to the laws governing Australia's press, online, television and radio outlets.

Among them were the creation of a public interest test to ensure diversity of media were considering when assessing nationally-significant media mergers and acquisitions.

While other changes included permanent allocation of a portion of channel A to support community television as well a permanent 50% reduction to licence fees for commercial TV broadcasters.

Senator Conroy also pledged the 75% rule relating to ownership of regional and local news outlets would be abolished, while the amount of local content aired would not be reduced in regional and local areas.

However, if the 75% rule was abolished, it could allow some outlets, including television, to cancel their local news bulletins, in favour of centralised national or state-wide content.

A series of bills will be introduced this year to legislate the government's media reforms, included a specific bill to create a new press standards model, which Senator Conroy said would be tabled in parliament this week.

"These reforms will ensure for the Australian public a media sector that is fair, diverse, and able to tackle the challenges of the future," Senator Conroy said.

"The public interest test will ensure that diversity of voices is always considered when media organisations of national significance seek to merge."

Senator Conroy also said the Public Interest Media Advocate would take public complaints, but it would oversee the enforcement of self-regulation by the Australian Press Council.

While the government has been in negotiations with all parties and independents for the reforms, Independent MP Rob Oakeshott said he would not support any reforms unless the changes enacted all of the review and inquiry recommendations.

Fellow independent Tony Windsor said he would wait to see the detail of the proposals before deciding whether he would support the reforms or not.

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