Malcolm Turnbull has just given the billionaire media owners of Channel 10, 7 and 9 a $160 million election year bribe with a reduction of TV license fees which was announced in the budget on the 3rd of May. This is the third election in a row that the TV licence fees have been slashed and there has been no attempt whatsoever to hide the obvious fact that they are election year bribes trying to get better TV coverage during the federal election.
The term “election year bribe” was coined by Tony Abbott in 2010 when Julia Gillard got the ball rolling with the 2010 “election year bribe” of a $250-million-dollar reduction in TV Licence fees. The latest fee cut puts Prime Minister Turnbull in step with Gillard and also former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who also gave the billionaire media owners an election year bribe in 2010 to give us a hat trick of 3 elections in a row.
The TV licence fee is a tax calculated as a percentage of the revenue received by the free-to-air television stations. It was 9 percent of their revenue but is now down to 4.5% and the latest cut will take it down to 3.375%.
The argument for the license fee reduction is extremely weak at best. In fact, in the 2010 budget there was no argument to justify it and the minister involved, Stephen Conroy, ducked, weaved and contradicted himself so much on the issue that is when Tony Abbott justifiably coined the term election year bribe.
Election Year Bribe and why it is so obvious
There have been 9 budgets since Labor won the federal election in 2007. There has never been a TV licence fee reduction announced in the federal budget in the years there has not been an election which are: 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015.
Why only the election years? A clear and blatant pattern which is a disgrace.
Why the TV licence fees reduction is a fraud on the Australian taxpayers
The argument that the fee reduction cannot be justified is best put:
Pay TV lobby the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association said taxpayers will be footing an “unconditional handout of approximately $150 million” to the free-to-air networks due to the cut.
ASTRA chief executive Andrew Maiden said licence fees reflect the protections that the free TV sector is given, such as the anti-siphoning list which determines which sports free-to-air broadcasters have first rights to bid on.
“In exchange for paying licence fees, Australian free-to-air broadcasters enjoy a legislated ban on competition, guaranteed access to broadcasting spectrum and the world’s most protected market for sports broadcast rights,” Mr Maiden said.
“There should be no reduction in licence fees without a corresponding reduction in the privileges and protections from competition that free-to-air television networks have amassed over decades.
“Thirty years after serious efforts began to eliminate protectionism, few industries enjoy greater structural advantages than free-to-air television, and even fewer expect corporate welfare as changing technology and consumer choices challenge their privileged position.” (Click here to read more)
When television stations are spending money on such things as paying criminals to kidnap children in Lebanon I don’t think they deserve more money anyhow. They should have their TV licenses taken off them and given to someone who is happy to pay the current fees.
2010 Election Year Media Bribe
In February 2010 the then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Minister for Communications Stephen Conroy announced a temporary reduction in “licence fees networks pay by 33 per cent this year and 50 per cent in 2011″.
“The issue has begun to gain traction in the electorate, as Senator Conroy has declined to discuss how his department came up with the formula that will generate at least $250m for the networks at the expense of taxpayers, and amid ongoing revelations about his private meetings with Seven Network executive chairman Kerry Stokes.” (Click here to read more)
Only a month before this was announced in 2010 Stephen Conroy met Kerry Stokes at Beaver Creek Ski Resort in Colorado USA for a meeting and a few ski runs, as you do when on holidays. Also “Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a previous recipient of Mr Stokes’s hospitality, staying in Mr Stokes’s mansion in Broome, WA, last year“. (Click here to read more)
Tony Abbott at the time called it the $250 Million election year bribe. He said “It looks like at this stage, unless the government can justify much better than it has so far . . . an election year bribe,” he said. “Maybe there is more to this, which the government hasn’t told us about, but . . . it looks like they’re buying favourable coverage.” (Click here to read more)
And “Asked if the government was ”bribing the media so they’ll be nice to the Labor Party”, Mr Abbott said: ”Absolutely right, that’s what it looks like.” (Click here to read more)
2013 Another election and another reduction in TV Licence fees
Eventually the reduction was made permanent and in 2013 the license fees were decreased by another 50%.
“The first – and only non-controversial – part of the government’s new media laws has passed the House of Representatives.”
“The Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 2013 halves the annual license fee for commercial TV networks, making it a maximum of 4.5 per cent of gross earnings.”
“It passed the lower house unanimously.” (Click here to read more)
Again there was no legitimate reason given for the fee reduction.
Turnbull’s 2016 Election Year Media Bribe
The latest reduction is being justified on the basis of the introduction of Apple TV and Netflix into the Australian market. (Click here to read more) One point worth noting is there was no Apple TV and Netflix in Australia in 2010 and 2013 when the TV licence fee decreases started so what justified those decreases? Nothing.
And there might be more good news for Turnbull’s Billionaire Media Battlers as communications minister “Senator Fifield also flagged the consideration of further licence fee reductions later in the year.” (Click here to read more)
The TV stations have numerous billionaire shareholders like Kerry Stokes at Channel 7, Gina Rinehart, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon at Channel 10 and most if not all dodge their tax like there is no tomorrow. (Channel 9 doesn’t seem to have a controlling shareholder at the moment.) For example the tax office is currently chasing James Packer for a lazy $362 million of taxpayers money. So why should taxpayers be giving Mr Packer a handout with the TV license fee reduction?
And remember Australia’s richest person Gina Rinehart crying poor when the government tried to increase the mining tax a few years ago.
The truth is that Turnbull’s Billionaire Media Battlers do not like paying tax and tax avoidance is one of their key strategies to getting rich and they will always make any excuse possible not to pay tax. Whether that be legal, illegal or doing a dodgy deal with politicians doesn’t matter to them.
There has been no attempt to even try to hide the election year bribe which shows how much contempt the politicians and media companies involved have for the Australian public.
What happens when there is no TV tax left to drop? What will Stokes, Packer, Murdoch and the others want from the government then. What else are they getting now?
They call them free-to-air networks but are they really free? There is an underlying cost to taxpayers given the owners often abuse their power for their other business interests as that is a major incentive for them to own media in the first place.
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