It could just be a matter of time before we see regional TV joined with their capital city counterparts should Labor win the August 21 election.
Both Prime and Southern Cross are likely to be targeted by their capital city affiliates Seven and Ten if the audience reach rule of 75% is scrapped by Communications Minister Senator Conroy.
The 75% rule prevents free to air commercial networks from owning broadcast facilities that allow them to reach more than 75% of the population. Owning networks that reach all five mainland capital cities means that Ten and Seven already are reaching close to 75% of the Australian population meaning they have no room for expansion. In Seven’s case, 7QLD brings the network even closer to the 75%, and without changing the rule, population growth alone could see the network inadvertently pass it’s reach limit.
Having Seven and Ten own their regional affiliates would see more nationalised programming, centralisation of play out facilities and allow the two networks to focus more on delivering extra services such as their third digital channels and other platforms for program delivery.
Australia could perhaps see a situation where – no matter where you are in the country – you see the same channel Seven and Ten as you do in the cities – apart from local news and sporting variations between markets.
Then – should this happen with Seven and Ten, the question would remain what of Nine? Nine’s situation is somewhat more complex with Nine owning channel Nine in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, NBN in regional NSW (Northern) and QLD as well as Nine in Darwin while WIN owns Nine in Adelaide and Perth, regional NSW (Southern), Victoria, Tasmania, regional SA and WA – with the further complication of owning stations that broadcast Seven and Ten programming in some regional areas.
The likelihood of a merge between Nine and WIN would seem remote thanks to the tumultuous relationship between the two businesses. The WIN owned Nine stations in Adelaide and Perth used to drop Nine’s famous dots to separate their identity from Nine as well as offering very different programming late night. If Seven and Ten became single national channels though, the nature of competition of the industry would most likely dictate the outcome that Nine and WIN do the same … unless…
UPDATED – Could the reverse happen for WIN and Nine – where WIN buys out Nine. New News – read more here.
WIN – now the largest remaining original regional broadcaster was – was always suggested could become Australia’s 4th commercial free to air television network. Even back in the 80’s when WIN was channel Four in Wollongong there was talk of channel 4 becoming our 4th free to air commercial network – that was before aggregation, and back in the days where most regional cities had 2 or 3 channels only. Some areas in Australia barely had just the ABC. Now look at it – the ABC alone now has 4 channels!
Senator Conroy has ruled out a 4th free to air commercial television license for now – so the likelihood of this happening in the near future is remote, at best. Besides – there are still many areas in regional Australia who don’t yet get all the free to air digital channels, not to mention some that don’t even have channel Ten yet.
Perhaps in the future – once the digital transition is complete could such a major change like a fourth free to air commercial TV network be considered – I for one would think there is room for a fourth or even a fifth free to air commercial TV network as it would bring better competition to the industry and allow networks to take greater risks with programming with the ultimate result being more content and options for the general viewing public.