26 June 2003

Senate derails media merger bill
The Government's push to deregulate the media industry was derailed last night when the Senate voted to ban mergers of newspapers and TV stations.

Labor, the Democrats, Greens and the three independents supported Tasmanian senator Brian Harradine's move to amend the proposed media ownership bill to prohibit TV and newspaper mergers in the mainland capital cities.

The Government voted against the amendment which would prevent Rupert Murdoch buying a TV station or Kerry Packer buying a newspaper company like Herald publisher Fairfax.

The Communications Minister, Richard Alston, said the "watershed amendment" would not achieve any of the Government's objectives to overhaul the media ownership regime.

The Government's bid to relax the media ownership restrictions now seems to doomed to fail, because it will not support the bill with Senator Harradine's amendment.

Without the amendment the Government is unlikely to secure the four extra votes it needs to change the media ownership laws. "It would be a shame if the Government threw the baby out with the bathwater and voted against the bill just over the protection of some big players," Senator Harradine said.

Sadly the ASIO bill passed with opposition support but at least the media bill is dead as a dodo. Considering the talents of the responsible minister the dodo is not an inappropriate metaphor.

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