PAY packets of big-name ABC and SBS stars would be revealed to the public under a deal struck between the government and One Nation on media reforms.
The agreement would also see the national broadcasters face an inquiry into how they compete with commercial rivals, and the ABC have the words “fair and balanced” slotted into its charter.
The deal brings the Turnbull government within reach of securing its planned media ownership reforms, which are due to be debated in the Senate as early as Wednesday.
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson insists there must be transparency in the pay of senior staff and on-air talent earning more than $200,000 at the ABC and SBS.
“Considering it is public money that funds the ABC, in all fairness to the public, this must be disclosed,” she told reporters after securing the deal. An inquiry into “competitive neutrality” would investigate whether the public broadcasters are harming commercial networks, including by outbidding them for sports broadcasts and other popular programs.
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”.
Senator Hanson – a staunch critic of the ABC – believes it has swung too far to the left.
One Nation insists slashing ABC funding did not feature in its negotiations. “I’d whack off quite a bit of money off it – hundreds of millions if I possibly could – but I’m going to wait next year til the budget and I’ll talk to the treasurer about that,” Senator Hanson told Sky News.
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.
The Greens and Nick Xenophon Team are still negotiating with government over the proposed media reforms.
The key sticking point is the repeal of the two out of three rule, which bars a person owning licences for TV, radio and newspapers in a single market. All non-government parties have expressed concern about the change, saying it could reduce Australia’s media diversity, which is already concentrated in a few hands.
The government needs 10 extra votes to get its bill through the Senate.