Media ownership and regulation: a chronology

Dr Rhonda Jolly
Social Policy Section

1957–1971: new stations, ownership concentrates, Australian content and FM deferred

After television commenced in Sydney and Melbourne, the Government decided to implement a staged approach to the expansion of commercial services to other areas. Following recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Television in 1954, this approach initially involved the granting of licences in other capital cities. During 1959, Brisbane and Adelaide were awarded two licences each and in 1960 one licence was granted in Perth and one in Hobart. Despite some concern about concentration, expressed by at least one government member, these licences were all bestowed on established media interests.[72]

Stage three of the expansion process, which extended services to large provincial centres, took place between 1962 and 1964. This involved establishing stations in Canberra and major provincial centres, such as Newcastle, Wollongong, Ballarat, Rockhampton and Townsville.[73] Stage four delivered services to smaller regional centres in the period between 1965 and 1968. There was some question whether the smaller regional markets could support commercial stations. But, as Nick Herd observes in his history of commercial television in Australia, the locally owned stations in these areas became profitable (at least until the 1980s when legislative and policy changes, such as the Hawke Government’s equalisation policy, intervened to change the dynamics of regional television).[74] The final stage of the introduction of television involved the licensing of additional services in the capital cities.

While localism appeared to be an important component of the Government’s television policy, it was not a priority for many commercial broadcasters who ‘sought to establish a system of control over stations and programming that centred on Sydney and Melbourne’.[75]

Increasing media concentration through ‘cross media ownership’ became more of an issue as television expanded across the country. Cross media ownership effectively meant that the newspaper owners who had purchased radio stations, or who held substantial shares in stations from the 1920s onwards, seized the opportunity in the 1950s and 1960s to add various television assets to their portfolios. Despite the existence of regulations that had been clearly framed to promote diversity and the passage of more legislation that appeared to have a similar intent, government decisions at times contributed to concentration—for example, decisions to award television licences in Adelaide and Perth to companies with existing media interests.

One important result of what became a general trend towards increased media concentration at this time, as Henry Mayer pointed out in an assessment of the Australian newspaper industry in 1964, was that one company, the Herald and Weekly Times, controlled 43 per cent of daily newspaper circulation in Australia in 1960.[76] By the early 1970s it appeared that this situation had worsened when an international assessment claimed Australia had a disturbingly high concentration of press media ownership.[77]

Box 6: 1971: a journalist’s comment on the print media environment

In November 1971 the Age published concerns about media concentration provided by a representative of the Journalists’ Association: 

‘We see great danger in fostering a trend towards monopoly ... it constitutes a threat to the full interplay of opinion and criticism which is the basis of a virile democracy.

Reduce the number of newspapers with a corresponding growth of monopolist control and you reduce the extent of news coverage and the expressions of opinion.

We realise that with newspapers in the hands of a comparative few these people are in a greatly advantageous position to influence the thinking of the people.’[78]

Figure 5: Australian content 1964: ‘homegrown’ detectives on Homicide

Figure 5: Australian content 1964: ‘homegrown’ detectives on Homicide

Source: Classic Australian Television[79]


Milestone Details Document source
1957–59 ABCB inquiry into FM broadcasting acknowledges the objections to its commencement and concludes there are no compelling arguments for its introduction. ABCB, Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh Annual Reports, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1957–59.
January 1957 HWT gains control of the Melbourne Argus, which includes shares in GTV-9. It later sells the GTV-9 shares to Sir Arthur Warner’s Electronic Industries and closes the Argus.
As a result of the acquisition of the Argus, HWT was directed by ABCB to dispose of three Victorian rural radio stations (3SR, 3UL and 3YB).
Chadwick, op. cit., p. xxix, ‘Your last Argus’, The Argus, 19 January 1957, p. 1 and Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Arthur Warner.
February 1957 Partnership between Frank Packer and the Theodore family dissolved. Consolidated Press becomes Australian Consolidated Press.[80] Griffen-Foley, Sir Frank Packer, op. cit., pp. 209–10.
April 1957 Owners of Sydney and Melbourne television licences meet to plan strategy to gain control of new licences to be issued in other capitals—that is, to participate in networking arrangements. They fail to reach agreement on how this would operate. Herd, op, cit., pp. 57–9.
May 1957 The Government announces the extension of the ABC and commercial television services to other capital cities.
With regards to award of television licences for Brisbane and Adelaide (due to occur in 1958), the ABCB recommends that newspapers owners with interests in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide should not be allowed to own the new television licences as it considers such concentration would not be in the public interest.
ABCB, Report and recommendations to the Postmaster General on application for a licence for a commercial television station in the Sydney and in the Melbourne area, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1963.
June 1957 Newspaper companies own 11 of the 108 commercial radio stations operating and hold shares in 29 others. ABCB, Ninth Annual Report, op. cit., p. 12.
November 1957 Government stresses that its media policy and legislation is intended ‘to encourage local ownership, control and operation of broadcasting and television stations’. CW Davidson, Answer to Question without notice: television, [Questioner: B Wight], House of Representatives, Debates, 6 November 1957, p. 1859.
September 1958 Cabinet discusses the award of television licences for Brisbane and Adelaide.
The Government rejects ABCB recommendation and awards the licences to groups which had cross ownership ties—Queensland Newspapers, largely controlled by HWT and the Truth newspapers, are the largest shareholders in Brisbane and News Ltd and Advertiser Newspapers control the Adelaide station.
ABCB, Tenth Annual Report, op. cit., pp. 23–5.
October 1958 Introduction of first Broadcasting Programme Standards, including general principles and provisions and special provisions for family and children’s programs, religious matter, political matter, news, sporting events, use of foreign languages, competitions and advertising. ABCB, Eleventh Annual Report, op. cit., p. 17.
October 1958 Television licences awarded in Perth to West Australian Newspapers and in Hobart to Davies Bros (owners of Hobart Mercury). ABCB, Tenth Annual Report, op. cit., p. 26.
November 1958 Ezra Norton’s Sydney Sunday Mirror bought by O’Connell Pty Ltd (a company owned by Fairfax solicitors) with finance from John Fairfax. Fairfax argument that it exerted no control over the Mirror regarded with scepticism by some. Souter, op. cit. p. 343.
November 1958
Menzies’ Liberal/Country Party Coalition achieves a post-war record majority in the House of Representatives.
1958 Federal Publishing Company (Hannan family) in partnership with Ezra Norton buys the Double Bay Courier. M Le Masurier, ‘Federal Publishing Company’, in Griffen-Foley, ed., op. cit., p. 170.
April 1959 The Government announces that television to be extended to Canberra and major centres in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania. Priority for award of licences to be given to local, independent applicants. ABCB, Eleventh Annual Report, op. cit., p. 24.
1959 The number of country newspapers reported as falling from 567 (published in 484 towns) in 1938 to 435. Australian Provincial Press Association (APPA), Proceedings of the twenty fifth annual conference, 1959, p. 2.
1959 Edmund Rouse begins to transform the Launceston Examiner into a new media corporation, ENT (Examiner and Northern Television). R Kirkpatrick ‘Examiner (Launceston)’, in Griffen–Foley. ed., op. cit., p. 160.
1959 Fairfax purchases one of Australia’s most important provincial newspapers, the Illawarra Mercury. I Willis, ‘Illawarra Mercury’, in Griffen-Foley, ed., op. cit., p. 212.
1960 The number of capital city daily newspapers declines further to 14 and the number of owners to seven.
HWT controls approximately 43 per cent of daily newspaper circulation in Australia.
Mayer, op. cit., p. 31.
February 1960 Rupert Murdoch acquires Cumberland Newspapers, a chain of 24 suburban titles in Sydney.
In response to Murdoch’s purchase of Cumberland, John Fairfax and Consolidated Press establish Suburban Publications.
A territorial agreement is reached between Murdoch and Fairfax/Packer to divide Sydney suburban newspapers.[81]
Souter, Heralds and Angels, op. cit., p. 347.
March 1960 Restrictions imposed to restrict broadcasting in foreign languages to 2.5 per cent of broadcasting time, providing the information is broadcast later in English. ABCB, Twelfth Annual Report, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1960, p. 24.
May 1960 Murdoch buys Daily Mirror, Sydney, from O’Connell Pty Ltd (Fairfax).[82] Australian Newspaper History Group, Newsletter, 13, July 2001, p. 19.
May 1960 Amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act limit the concentration of ownership of television stations and prevent control by foreign interests.
The Postmaster-General notes that commercial reality is often that a lesser holding than 51 per cent represents control of a company, so the Government deems that 15 per cent of voting power in a company represents control.
The Act also gives licensees the right to apply to the ACBC if the owner of rights to a program refuses to sell that program under reasonable terms and conditions.
Broadcasting and Television Act 1960  and C Davidson, ‘Second reading speech: Broadcasting and Television Bill 1960’, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 May 1960, pp. 1844–5.
September 1960 Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations (FACTS) formed. M Turner, ‘Free TV Australia,’ in Griffen-Foley, ed., op. cit., p. 184.
October 1960 Consolidated Press buys the Bulletin. Griffin-Foley, Sir Frank Packer, op. cit., pp. 241–2.
1960 First Australian content regulations for television put in place. The requirement is that after three years Australian programs should comprise no less than 40 per cent of commercial television content.
Other requirements include that imported television advertisements are prohibited.
ABCB, Twelfth Annual Report, op. cit., p. 38.
1960 Electronic Industries acquired by PYE (an English company), which once the new foreign ownership legislation is in place, sells its 62 per cent stake in GTV-9 to Packer. Herd, op. cit., p. 64.
1960 Parliamentarians representing rural areas express concern that monopolistic interests are likely to extend to country television stations when licences issued. Ibid., pp. 65–6.
1960 As television reach extended to regional areas, the ABCB is in favour of a situation where stations are locally owned, including stations owned by local cross-media interests, to prevent regional stations becoming satellites of metropolitan stations. ABCB, Report and recommendations to the Postmaster-General on application for commercial television licences in provincial and country areas, Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS), Canberra, 1960.
1960–61 Fairfax purchases additional shares in Amalgamated Television Services (ATN Sydney) and QTQ Brisbane.
Australian Consolidated Press through Television Corporation Ltd gains more shares in GTV 9 Melbourne.
HWT buys more shares in BTQ Brisbane.
ABCB, Thirteenth Annual Report, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1961, p. 29.
May 1961 Following release of the Report of the Radio Frequency Allocation Review Committee (Huxley Committee), the Government adopts the Committee’s recommendations and discontinues experimental FM transmissions.
The Committee had been asked to investigate ways in which more frequency could be made available for television broadcasts and had found this could be achieved by using frequency reserved for FM broadcasting.
Ibid., p. 19.
October 1961 WIN television licensee (Wollongong) complains to ABCB that it is experiencing difficulties in obtaining programs because of an overlap with metropolitan stations (NBN Newcastle later raises similar complaint, April 1962). ABCB, Fifteenth Annual Report, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1962, p. 35.
December 1961
Menzies’ Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government comes close to electoral defeat following the 1960–61 ‘credit squeeze’.
1961 A joint publishing venture is formed between the Hannan family company, Australian Consolidated Press, and Fairfax Suburban Publications to merge five competing papers into three. Hannanprint website and Souter, op. cit., p. 348.
March 1962 Government approves proposal for third commercial television licences for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide and second licence for Perth. ABCB, Fourteenth Annual Report, op. cit., p. 34.
August 1962 HWT acquires 14.5 per cent interest in Davies Bros, publishers of the Hobart Mercury. Mayer, op. cit., p. 31.
August 1962 Rupert Murdoch expresses interest in purchasing third commercial television licence in Sydney. Highly competitive situation’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 August 1962, p. 10.
March 1963 HWT acquires a further nine per cent of Davies Bros. Mayer, op. cit., p. 31.
April 1963 ABCB recommends that the third commercial television licences in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide are awarded to companies with no newspaper interests.
The Government accepts the recommendation and the licences are awarded to non-newspapers interests, including United Telecasters Sydney, a consortium which includes AWA and Email, and to Reg Ansett’s Austarama Television in Melbourne.[83]
ABCB, Report and recommendations to the Postmaster-General on application for a licence for a commercial television station in the Sydney and in the Melbourne area, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1963 and ‘TV licences awarded by Cabinet’, The Canberra Times, 6 April 1963, p. 3.
July 1963 Rupert Murdoch buys the regional television station WIN in Wollongong and threatens to broadcast programming into Sydney.
Frank Packer sells shares in TCN to Murdoch to avoid this situation occurring. Packer and Murdoch then purchase NBN.
Griffen-Foley, Sir Frank Packer, op. cit., p. 263 and ‘Wollongong TV plan ”unlikely”’, The Canberra Times, 8 July 1963, p. 1.
August 1963 A High Court ruling invalidates licence conditions imposed on metropolitan television stations following complaints by WIN and NBN about difficulty in obtaining programs. Television Corporation Ltd. v. The Commonwealth([1963) 109 CLR 59,HCA 30.
October 1963 Publication of Vincent Committee report into Australian productions on television concludes that the role of ABCB is to ensure that programs which present a balance in subject matter, content and variety and which are of a high technical and artistic standard are provided to serve the best interests of the general public.
Committee considers the ABCB to be reticent in enforcing its powers.
Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian productions for Television, Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, (Vincent Committee), Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1963, paragraphs 9 and 11.
November 1963
Menzies’ Liberal/Country Party Coalition returned to government with an increased majority.[84]

Figure 6: Rupert Murdoch and the birth of the Australian

Figure 6: Rupert Murdoch and the birth of the Australian

Source: Inside Story[85]

Milestone Details Document source
April 1964 John Fairfax buys Federal Capital Press, publisher of the Canberra Times and part owner of CTC Television Canberra. ANHG, Newsletter, 13, op. cit., p. 20.
April 1964 ABCB announces that the licence for United Telecasters in Brisbane would be withheld pending investigation of possible breach of ownership conditions. As a result of the investigation, it is found that Frank Packer controls three commercial television licences. Herd, op. cit., pp. 79–80.
June 1964 Fairfax buys the Australian investments of Associated Television London. These include radio stations 2GB in Sydney and 2CA Canberra. ABCB, Sixteenth Annual Report, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1964, p. 12.
July 1964 News Ltd launches the Australian. ANHG, Newsletter, 13, op. cit., p. 20.
September 1964 and November 1964 Minor amendments made to licensing conditions in the Broadcasting and Television Act. Broadcasting and Television Act 1964 and Broadcasting and Television Act (No. 2) 1964
1964 News Ltd purchases the Northern Territory News from Eric White and Associates, the company that had begun the publication in 1952. D Carment and B James ‘Press, Northern Territory’, in Griffen-Foley, ed., op. cit., p. 353 and Australian Dictionary of Biography entry for Eric White
January 1965 In response to the Vincent Committee report, the proportion of Australian programs on metropolitan television is increased to 50 per cent. ABCB, Seventeenth Annual Report, Australian Government Printer, Canberra, 1966, p. 68.
February 1965 A High Court ruling validates the incorporation and operations of the ABC. Jones v Commonwealth (No 2) (1965) 112 CLR 206, HCA 6
June 1965 In response to licensing issues raised by the award of the third commercial television licences and strategic investments by Sydney and Melbourne interests in regional television, the Government introduces legislation to strengthen the provision relating to ownership and control of television stations.
Under the legislation no person is to have more than five per cent interest in more than two licensee companies, no person is to have a prescribed interest (15 per cent) in three or more commercial television stations nationally or two or more stations in a territory or the capital city of a state.
Broadcasting and Television Act 1965
August 1965 ABCB seeks the views of television industry on technical standards that should be adopted for colour television. ABCB, Seventeenth Annual Report, op. cit., p. 59.
October 1965 Fairfax creates Macquarie Broadcasting Holdings after restructuring interests gained in its purchase of British radio and television group Associated Television Corporation.
Macquarie Broadcasting Holdings Stations include 2GB Sydney, 3AW Melbourne, 5DN Adelaide and 2CA Canberra.
ABCB, Eighteenth Annual Report, Australian Government Printer, Canberra, 1966, pp. 12–13.
1965 ABCB allows radio station 2CH to broadcast ten per cent of its programs in a foreign language. Moran and Keating, op. cit., p. xxviii.
January 1966 Voluntary code governing the advertising of cigarettes is introduced by commercial television stations. ABCB, Twenty First Annual Report, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1969, p. 31.
February 1966 Government declares it still has no plans to introduce FM broadcasting but would consider further applications for experimental licences. ABCB, Eighteenth Annual Report, op. cit., pp. 19–20.
May–June 1966 ABCB discussions with Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters regarding allowing the broadcast of telephone conversations in ‘open line’ programs—that is, programs that allow listeners to contribute by asking questions or contributing information—agree that these programs will be ‘developed’ in the near future. Ibid., p. 22.
August 1966 ABCB rescinds rule which only allows religious programs to be televised before noon on a Sunday. ABCB, Nineteenth Annual Report, Australian Government Printer, Canberra, 1967, p. 95.
November 1966 High Court ruling validates the ownership and control provisions of the Broadcasting Act. Herald & Weekly Times Ltd v Commonwealth  (1966) 115 CLR 418, [1966] HCA 78
November 1966
The 1966 election results in a landslide victory for Harold Holt’s Liberal/Country Party Coalition Government.[86]
December 1966 John Fairfax acquires an interest in David Syme (incorporated in 1948), publisher of the Age, as the result of the formation of a shareholding partnership which anticipates the end of a trust set up under David Syme’s will.
At the time HWT also owns ten per cent of shares in Syme.
ANHG, Newsletter, 13, op. cit., p. 20 and E Morrison, David Syme: man of the Age, Monash University Publishing, Clayton, 2014, p. 399.
January 1967 ABCB introduces new advertising standards for television in response to survey of viewers (in 1965). ABCB, Nineteenth Annual Report, op. cit., pp. 97–100.
March 1967 Government announces that it has no clear date in mind for introduction of colour television. Investigation of technical aspects to be left to ABCB. A Hulme, ‘Answer to Question without notice: Colour television’, [Questioner: E Drury], House of Representatives, Debates, 1 March 1967, p. 221.
May 1967 First live television signals received via satellite. ABCB notes that in theory satellite could deliver services to those Australians unable to receive television via existing means. ABCB, Nineteenth Annual Report, op. cit., p. 81.
June 1967 ABCB reports that of 111 commercial radio broadcasting stations operating, 61 are controlled by persons or organisations with interests in three or more stations. Ibid., p. 20.
January 1968 A combined organisation, representing the major press, radio and television bodies, the Media Council of Australia, formed. Rupert Murdoch is its first Chair. Media Council formed’, The Canberra Times, 19 January 1968, p. 11.
March 1968 Six Queensland regional newspaper groups merge to form Queensland Provincial Newspapers in response to fears of takeover moves by metropolitan media interests. R Fitzpatrick, ‘Development of a great newspaper chain: the provincial story’, Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 12(1), 1984, pp. 83–102.
May 1968 News Ltd buys radio stations in Western Australia—Perth and Narrogin. WA radio stations sold’, The Canberra Times, May 1968, p. 30.
June 1968 Postmaster-General states that that there is not ‘a sufficiently strong case’ with regards to the inefficiency of existing broadcasting services to consider the introduction of FM broadcasting. A Hulme, ‘Ministerial statement: Frequency Modulation broadcasting, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 June 1968, pp. 2130–5.
December 1968 ABCB determines that the PAL (Phase Alteration Line) system would be adopted for colour television in Australia. ABCB, Twenty First Annual Report, op. cit., p. 37.
December 1968 Frank Packer buys the Whitford chain of radio stations (including a   Perth station) in Western Australia. Packer buys WA radio chain’, The Canberra Times, 4 December 1968, p. 28.
June 1969 In response to concerns about increasing concentration of ownership of radio broadcasting stations, legislation further restricts the number of stations that can be owned—no person or company is able to control more than 15 per cent directly or indirectly or to own more than one metropolitan commercial broadcasting station in any state; more than four metropolitan commercial broadcasting stations in Australia; more than four commercial broadcasting stations in any one state; or more than eight commercial broadcasting stations in Australia. Broadcasting and Television Act (No. 2) 1969
July 1969 HWT takeover of West Australian Newspapers. G Bolton. ‘West Australian’, in Griffen-Foley, (ed.), op. cit., p. 492.
September 1969 John Fairfax acquires South Coast Times, publisher of Illawarra Mercury. ANHG, Newsletter, 13, op. cit., p. 20.
September 1969 David Syme launches an evening daily, Newsday, in Melbourne to compete directly with the Herald. Ibid.
October 1969
The Coalition Government, led by John Gorton, returned with less than 50 per cent of the estimated two-party preferred vote.[87]
November 1969 Fairfax launches a daily afternoon paper in the national capital, the Canberra News. Ibid.
January 1970 Government directs ABCB to take into consideration the ethical ramifications of Consolidated Press’ payment to Ronald Biggs’ wife for the Great Train robber’s story when considering the renewal application for the organisation’s TCN Nine television station. Minister replies on payment for TV storyThe Canberra Times, 2 January 1970, p. 4.
April 1970 Opposition criticism of ABCB proposal that commercial television stations self-censor news programs—particularly with relation to the Vietnam War. ‘Censorship proposal queried’, The Canberra Times, 9 April 1970, p. 3.
May 1970 FACTS questions whether the ABCB has the right under legislation to mandate what programs are shown on television on Sunday mornings. ABCB, Twenty Third Annual Report, Commonwealth Government Printer, Canberra, 1971, p. 40.
May 1970 Government announces terms of reference for inquiry into FM broadcasting. Public inquiry promised FM system’, The Canberra Times, 8 May 1970, p. 11.
June 1970 ABCB report to Government on the introduction of colour television. No decision made by December for an introduction date. Colour TV date not set’, The Canberra Times, 15 December 1970, p. 7.
June 1970 Australian Film Development Corporation and the Experimental Film and Television Fund established to provide federal government assistance in the production of programs for Australian television. Australian Film Development Corporation Act 1970
September 1970 John Fairfax acquires 25 per cent of Land Newspaper Ltd (later to be renamed Rural Press Ltd). ANHG, Newsletter, 12, May 2001, p. 19.
September 1970 Advocacy by Make it Australian Committee to raise Australian content levels to 75 per cent. FACTS argues in response that broadcasters are best able to gauge whether the public wants more Australian programs. K Harrison, The points system for Australian television: a study in symbolic policy, National Monograph Series, 5, Royal Institute of Public Administration, 1980, pp. 8–10.
October 1970 ABCB completes inquiry into television content requirements and issues new standards that Australian content must comprise 50  per cent or more of programs between 6am and midnight. Four hours of children’s programming to be broadcast and Australian-produced drama content to increase from two to six hours per week. ABCB, Twenty Third Annual Report, op. cit., pp. 120–2.
1970 Government asks ABCB to investigate possible options for the introduction of cable television. ABCB, Twenty Second Annual Report, Allprint, Melbourne, 1970, p. 39.
January 1971 ABCB establishes new Children’s Television Advisory Committee to provide advice on children and television. Over time, the Committee recommends a variety of initiatives, including incentive and quotas systems. Australian Broadcasting  Authority (ABA), Australian Children’s Television Foundation and Australian Film Finance Corporation, 20 years of C: children’s television programs and regulation 1979–1999, ABA, Sydney, 2000.
March 1971 Legislation amends provisions relating to ownership and control of commercial radio and television stations so that employees’ superannuation and provident funds are not used to evade the intent of restrictions. Broadcasting and Television Act 1971
May 1971 Revised code for advertising of cigarettes imposes further restrictions and extends code to radio broadcasting. TV and radio to limit advertising of cigarettes’, The Canberra Times, 4 May 1971, p. 3.
August 1971 Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts announces it intends to hold an inquiry into Australian broadcasting. L Murphy, ‘Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts’, Senate, Debates, 19 August 1971, p. 173.
September 1971 After the ABCB bans a live performance program, Packer’s Channel Nine questions whether the regulator has the power under legislation to ban the broadcast of these types of television programs, particularly programs on Sunday mornings. Control board ban faces challengeThe Canberra Times, 29 September 1971, p. 1.
1971 Continuing amalgamations and closures of country newspapers reported—370 paid circulation newspapers published in 344 country centres compared with 389 newspapers in 364 centres in 1968. Proceedings of the 29th Conference of the APPA, 1971, p. 7.
1971 Survey of 32 countries shows Australia to have the second highest concentration of press ownership in the developed countries surveyed.[88] RB Nixon and T Hahn, ‘Concentration of press ownership: a comparison of 32 countries’, Journalism Quarterly, 48(1), 1973.

Box 7: Clyde Packer’s ownership concerns

Quoted in the Canberra Times 21 September 1971, Clyde Packer, in his capacity as joint managing director of Television Corporation Limited, argued: ‘With due respects to government television, people’s television, whichever you call it, I don’t think that if we had a government-owned system solely operating in this country that there would be three million [television] sets in Australia today.’ Packer thought there was ‘a “very big problem” in Australia with the concentration of media ownership’: ‘Perhaps the best way I can explain it is to say that in the nine largest cities in Australia there are 18 commercial television licences.

Of these, nine are controlled by two companies.

I suppose you could say that the Packer family was ... the last of the independents as it were.

I find it disturbing that 50 per cent of the metropolitan television stations in the largest cities and virtually 75 per cent of the daily newspapers are controlled by two groups.

I don’t think that’s healthy.’ [89]

  • H Holt, ‘Speech: Estimates 1958–59: part 2: business undertakings: proposed vote, £98,067,000’, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 September 1958, pp. 1195–97.
  • Herd, Networking: commercial television in Australia, op. cit., pp. 56–81.
  • Ibid., p. 74.
  • Ibid., p. 51.
  • Mayer, op. cit., p. 31.
  • RB Nixon and T Hahn, ‘Concentration of press ownership: a comparison of 32 countries’, Journalism Quarterly, 48(1). 1973, cited in H McQueen, Australia’s media monopolies, Widescope International, Camberwell, Vic., 1977, p. 35.
  • Australian Journalist Association official quoted in the Age, 3 November 1971, p. 4 and cited by H McQueen, Australia’s media monopolies, op. cit., 1977, p. 36.
  • In October 1964, the first episode of the Melbourne-produced police drama, Homicide, was screened. The program ran on the Seven Network for 510 episodes over 12 years. Figure shows original cast members: Lex Mitchell as Detective Rex Fraser, John Fegan as Inspector Jack Connolly and Terry McDermott as Sergeant Frank Bronson, ‘Homicide’, Classic Australian Television, accessed 12 March 2015.
  • EG Theodore had died in 1950 and his son John had taken over the family interests.
  • The companies competed only in the Bankstown area. As Gavin Souter notes, this agreement would have contravened the Trade Practice Act—if that legislation had been enacted at the time, Souter, Heralds and angels: the house of Fairfax 1841– 1990, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Victoria, 1991,  p. 347.
  • Note: John Fairfax Ltd (through a subsidiary, Castlecrag Pty Ltd) had formed a company with Consolidated Press to prevent the Murdoch purchase of Cumberland Newspapers. The company, Suburban Publications Pty Ltd, under the managing directorship of Frank Packer’s elder son, Clyde Packer, was to have used the idle time of the Mirror’s press at Kippax Street. After the Murdoch purchase, an associated company, Regional Newspapers Pty Ltd, offered to buy Anglican Press Ltd, which was in receivership, and its principals were authorised by the receiver to enter the Anglican premises in Chippendale. Another offer had also been made to the receiver by a new company, Australian Church Press Ltd, whose directors included Rupert Murdoch. On the night of 7 June [1960] there was a brawl at the Anglican office between a Regional Newspapers task force, led by Clyde Packer and his brother Kerry, and a team of publishers from the Mirror, led by a Murdoch employee.
  • Note the sale of the Daily Mirror was completed without its chairman, Sir Warwick Fairfax, being consulted. Managing Director, Rupert Henderson, engineered the deal. Sir Warwick was overseas at the time.
  • Sir Reginald Myles (Reg) Ansett (1909–1981) was an aviator and businessman. He began Ansett Airways in 1935. For more information see Australian Dictionary of Biography entry, accessed 15 December 2015.
  • Note this election was for the House of Representatives only; a half Senate election was later held in December 1964.
  • Rupert Murdoch (left) with Australian staffers Solly Chandler (right) and Hank Bateson looking at a page one proof of the Australian on 15 July 1964, K Inglis, ‘Enter the Australian’, Inside Story, 14 July, 2009, accessed 15 December 2015.  .
  • House of Representatives election; a half Senate election held in November 1967.
  • House of Representatives election only, half Senate election held 21 November 1970.
  • Countries surveyed included underdeveloped countries in Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia, as well as countries labelled as developed by the researchers. Fifteen of the countries surveyed were included in this category. They included Britain, Germany, New Zealand Denmark, Italy and the United States. Of the developed countries, only Ireland had more concentrated press ownership than Australia.
  • TV “sells the sets”’, The Canberra Times, 21 September 1971, p. 9, accessed 12 June 2015.


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