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News May 28, 2019

Who is Paul Fletcher, Australia’s new Minister for Communications and the Arts

Senior Journalist, B2B
Who is Paul Fletcher, Australia’s new Minister for Communications and the Arts

Paul Fletcher is the new Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, and in one swift move becomes the Australian music industry’s most powerful advocate.

The broadcast and music industries have been quick to welcome Fletcher, who takes the comms and arts portfolios just a week after Scott Morrison and the Liberal Party snatched victory at the federal election.

Now that the formalities are done, the industry and all its moving parts must get to know Fletcher, and know that Fletcher understands their needs and issues. The big schmooze starts now.

There’s a sense of cautious optimism for the incoming minister, whose CV is a tailor-fitted for the comms role.

Fletcher has extensive experience in the communications sector, dating back to the mid-’90s and including stints as a policy adviser, as a senior executive at Optus for eight years and as a consultant serving the sector. From 2013-2015, he was Parliamentary Secretary to the then Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, during which time he got up to speed with the radio sector.

Fletcher has even written a book on broadband.

With his tech background, the creative sector will hope Fletcher can effortlessly navigate the complexities of today’s digital music environment.

In time, a key priority will be completing the rollout of the NBN, Fletcher said in a statement issued Sunday, announcing his new gig.

He also spoke of being delighted about his new responsibility for “Australia’s vibrant and critically important arts sector.” He continued, “Australia’s performers and creative artists are world renowned – and make a profound contribution to our national identity.”

Music wasn’t singled out. Note to Fletcher: The arts and music industries will love you if you give them some attention.

The radio sector, meanwhile, needs Fletcher’s support to help regional broadcasters make the big switch to digital broadcasting.

It’s early days.

Certainly no one in music is crying over the departure of Fletcher’s predecessor Mitch Fifield, who has been appointed as the next Australian Ambassador to the United Nations, based in New York.

Fifield will be remembered for reforming media ownership rules and slashing radio licence fees. And he’ll be remembered for his opposition to Triple J’s decision to shift the date of its Hottest 100 from Australia Day, a decision he declared was “dumb.”

Fifield told, or warned, the public broadcaster to reconsider its plan, which was hatched after surveying tens of thousands of listeners (60% wanted the move). That was in November 2017. In June 2018, a closed door meeting of Liberal and National Party members voted overwhelmingly to privatise the ABC. Fifield said it wouldn’t actually happen, but it felt like a shot across the bows.

With Fletcher’s appointment, it’s a fresh start. Here’s what the music industry is saying about it.

Evelyn Richardson

Evelyn Richardson

Evelyn Richardson, CEO, Live Performance Australia

“We look forward to working with the Minister on policies that promote the growth of our vibrant and dynamic live performance industry.

“As the Minister noted on his appointment, Australia’s performers and creative artists are world renowned and make a profound contribution to our national identity.

“There is a great opportunity for the new Minister to take a leadership role in guiding a national policy approach that celebrates and advances our cultural industries as valuable national assets, which are recognised for their significant economic and social contribution to the life of the nation.”

Joan Warner

Joan Warner

Joan Warner, CEO, Commercial Radio Australia

“The industry congratulates Minister Fletcher on his appointment. We enjoyed working with the new Minister when he was the Parliamentary Secretary to Malcolm Turnbull in 2015 and look forward to working closely with him once again.

“Australian radio reaches 95% of the population and plays an essential role in providing local news, information and entertainment.

“Local broadcasters, particularly those serving listeners in regional areas, need to be able to compete on a more level playing field with the global digital giants, who are largely unregulated and pay little tax in this country.

“We will be looking to meet soon with Minister Fletcher to discuss a broad range of policy issues impacting on commercial radio including the regulatory inequalities that exist between commercial radio and the digital platforms.

“This includes the removal of the outdated election advertising blackout rule, stronger protections for the removal of copyright infringing material and other issues outlined in the ACCC inquiry.”

Richard Evans, president, LPA

“It’s time to celebrate and develop the contemporary cultural identity of our nation through a clearly articulated cultural policy, providing creative Australians with a road map to allow them to flourish at home and abroad.

“A strong cultural sector is a major selling point for all sophisticated nations, and cultural development and articulation must be forefront in the new government’s aspirations for our national economic and social well-being.

“The cultural sector has suffered too much ad hoc decision-making in recent years, and the new Minister now has an opportunity to put in place policies that support industry growth, better reflecting its size and importance in terms of jobs, economic activity and significant contribution to our cultural expression and identity.

“We look forward to working with the Minister on initiatives to support a successful, thriving Australian live performance industry.”

Chris Johnson, Director, On To It Media

“I’m optimistic that Fletcher will embrace the arts portfolio and deliver results, but the appointment may primarily be about bringing him back to the communications sector that he cut his teeth on as a lawyer, author, corporate executive (to Optus), and as parliamentary secretary to the former Comms minister.

“Here’s hoping Fletcher embraces the innovative Australian music industry with the same fervour that he has for communications and technology.”

Michael Smellie, acting CEO, Music Australia

“We welcome the new Minister to his portfolio and look forward to working with him to develop a strategy for a potent and sustainable industry.

“In a practical sense, the recently completed Parliamentary Inquiry into the Australian Music Industry might be a good place to start that work.”

Dean Ormston apra amcos CEO

Dean Ormston, CEO, APRA AMCOS

APRA AMCOS welcomes the appointment of Hon Paul Fletcher MP as the new Minister for the Arts in the re-elected Morrison Government.

Minister Fletcher is no stranger to the work of APRA AMCOS, or the music industry, having been both the Parliamentary Secretary for Communications and Chief of Staff to Minister for Communications Richard Alston in the Howard Government. This gives Minister Fletcher an incredible understanding of the work of our 100,000 songwriter and publisher members and the importance of a robust copyright framework for creators.

The Minister will also have a key responsibility implementing the Coalition’s Australian Music Industry Package which makes important inroads for the sustainability of live music, Australian music exports, women in music and Indigenous musicians and tackles key issues that emerged in the House Standing Committee music inquiry chaired by Luke Howarth MP.

Importantly, the music policy recognises the importance of live music to the development and presentation of our nation’s rich vein of musical talent. We already know that live music in our cities, regional centres and towns also provides them with a competitive advantage, driving jobs, tourism and supporting the night-time economy.

This article originally appeared on The Industry Observer, which is now part of The Music Network.


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