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Xenophon rejects Hanson's anti-ABC media deal


The Turnbull Government may have won the support of One Nation for its media ownership reforms but it faces a struggle to convince other crucial Senate crossbenchers.

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The salaries of big-name ABC and SBS stars would be revealed to the public under a deal struck between the coalition and Pauline Hanson on Tuesday.

The national public broadcasters would also face an inquiry into how they compete with commercial rivals, while the ABC charter would include the words “fair and balanced”.

Without the support of Labor and the Greens, the government also requires the votes of the three Nick Xenophon Team senators.

Xenophon says he won’t be supporting the One Nation deal.

“This piece of legislation is not about the ABC or SBS, it is about the existential crisis that commercial media has found itself in largely as a result of the rise of Google and Facebook,” he told ABC radio today.

“I cannot see the need for the so-called fair and balanced test.”

Xenophon said forcing the ABC to publish the salaries of top presenters would be unprecedented and put the public broadcaster at a disadvantage to commercial broadcasters.

Instead he wants tax breaks for publishers and smaller newspapers to replenish journalists jobs lost since the global financial crisis.

But One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts believes both his party and the government can negotiate with the Xenophon team.

“Nick Xenophon’s quite often very clear and then reverses his position,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“The regionals will come back on Nick Xenophon if he doesn’t do this.”

Under the One Nation deal an inquiry into “competitive neutrality” would also investigate whether the public broadcasters are harming commercial networks, including outbidding them for sports broadcasts and other popular programs.

But Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young fears the “stupid” review is a backdoor attempt to axe ABC iView and SBS On Demand.

The ABC charter already includes the words “accurate and impartial” but the government will look to introduce legislation by the end of this year to tack on “fair and balanced”.

The government will also try to update the ABC charter to explicitly require a regional focus and force its board to have two regional members.

A register of foreign ownership of Australian media companies would also be created.

Labor’s communications spokeswoman Michelle Rowland accused an “increasingly unhinged” and weak prime minister of outsourcing the ABC to One Nation.

“Australians value their public broadcasters, they value the ABC,” she told reporters.

Rowland insisted the Opposition was willing to work with the government on all elements of its package except repealing the two-out-of-three rule.

The rule bars one entity owning licences for TV, radio and newspapers in a single market.

Major media companies, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and Fairfax Media, are campaigning strongly in favour of the Federal Government’s media reforms.

Scrapping the two-out-of-three rule would allow a company like News Corp, for example, to own Adelaide’s metropolitan newspapers, a local commercial radio station and a television network.

– with AAP

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