Crossbench senator Nick Xenophon insists a deal he has struck on media ownership reforms will help journalism recover from its crisis, despite criticism from Labor and the Greens.
The government secured an agreement with the Xenophon team on Wednesday night, clinching his crucial bloc of three votes.
The legislation passed the Senate on Thursday, but will return to the house of representatives when parliament sits in October for amendments to be rubber stamped.
“I’ve done my level best to try and redress the crisis that journalism is facing in this country,” he told reporters.
“This is the best package to ensure that we can actually get more journalists being employed, not fewer.”
The package’s centrepiece will allow a proprietor to control more than two out of three platforms – TV, radio or newspaper – in one licensed market.
It will also repeal the reach rule, which prevents a proprietor exercising control of commercial television broadcasting licences where the combined licence area exceeds 75 per cent of Australia’s population.
Other measures include:
* The establishment of a $60.4 million fund for regional and small publishers with a turnover of less than $30 million to be overseen by the Australian Communications and Media Authority with input from the bodies such as the Press Council.
* 200 scholarships of up to $40,000 a year subsidised by the government. They would not be restricted to smaller publications but would have a regional focus.
* An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission inquiry into Facebook, Google and the impact other internet giants are having on the media industry.
Labor and the Greens opposed scrapping the “two out of three” rule, arguing it will lead to a higher concentration of media ownership.
“The sun comes up in the morning, the sun sets at night and the Xenophon party will do a deal for some baubles,” Labor senator Doug Cameron told reporters.
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said more voices were needed in the Australia media sector, not fewer.
But major newspaper publishers News Corp and Fairfax Media welcomed the changes.
“This finally addresses the restrictions that have held back the competitiveness of media companies in Australia for far too long,” News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said.
Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood said the company had been a long-time supporter of reform.
“It is no small feat having the sector united on what is the best legislative setting for the future,” Mr Hywood said.
© AAP 2017