Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator

Australia – (E2) Media ownership concentration regional (local) level

Score in short:

Australia’s demographic distribution and resulting economy of scale have led to a high media ownership concentration on a regional level.

Score in detail:

In conjunction with the radio availability by licence area map shown above, the map of commercial television services by licence area clearly demonstrates that Australia’s demographic distribution and resulting economy of scale are a determining factor on ownership concentration on the regional level.

Differences in media ownership between the western and eastern states of Australia are also noticeable when two Australian regions, Western Australia’s South West (population: 163,170; area: 24,000km2) and Victoria’s Gippsland (population: 241,483; area 41,538 km2) are examined more closely. A total of 15 newspapers serve different towns in the South West’s 12 local government areas, but these newspapers are only produced in larger towns, such as Bunbury, Busselton and Margaret River. The market is dominated by West Australian Newspaper Holdings, which owns six of these newspapers plus a regional Western Australian weekly, Countryman, and Fairfax, which owns five. The other four newspapers are locally owned. There are also only three tiers of radio ownership in the South West. Public broadcaster ABC has the widest coverage, holding licenses in nine towns. Southern Cross Media Group holds six licences and West Australian Newspaper Holdings holds four radio licences in addition to its newspaper market share.

Newspaper and radio ownership is more diverse in Gippsland, which has 16 newspapers and 23 radio stations covering towns in six local government areas. Fairfax owns a large share of the newspaper market, with six, and Star News Group with one. But, in contrast with the South West, Gippsland has more locally owned newspapers (nine). Gippsland also has nine community owned radio stations, as well as five ABC and four Southern Cross Media Group stations, and five stations owned by three regional companies.

Free-to-air national and regional television stations owned by ABC, SBS, Prime Television and WIN Corporation are available in analog format throughout most of the South West and Gippsland. Southern Cross Media Group’s regional Victorian analog station is available in Gippsland. The content of these stations, however, is mostly sourced from programs shown on these broadcasters’ parallel networks in the capital cities (ABC, SBS, Seven, Nine and Ten). News programs offer some localised content. Pay television is provided mostly via satellite to these regions by Foxtel in Western Australia and Austar in Victoria. A wider range of free-to-air channels, including new channels introduced by the main broadcasters, is now available in digital format in larger towns and newer regional developments through analog/digital set top box converters and pay television’s satellite and cable services.

Map 2. Commercial television services in Australia by licence area, January 2007

Source: ACMA 2009.

However, there are still many regional towns that cannot receive terrestrial digital signals, which led the government in 2010 to offer subsidies towards households’ purchases of satellite dishes and equipment (Brady 2010). The Australian government’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital economy (2010) recently estimated, based on small survey samples, that 80 % of households in Gippsland had already converted to digital television, while only 58 % of households in regional Western Australia were receiving digital signals. For this figure, the Department’s survey combined all parts of regional and remote Western Australia. Gippsland will switch permanently from analog to digital television in May 2011, and the South West will be one of the last areas in Australia to switch in December 2013.