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John Hartigan welcomes 'overdue' media review

Former News Corp boss John Hartigan says the media review being conducted by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull is long overdue.

In an interview with Fairfax Media after taking the chairmanship of regional free-to-air broadcaster Prime Media Group, Mr Hartigan said certain regulations had become outdated, due largely to the emergence of digital media.

''I think the review is long overdue, and particularly for regional media operators,'' he said. ''I think that, broadly, we've got some new information channels that are reaching over the top of regulated media and that we need to put down our tools and start afresh.''

Prime, which is the regional affiliate of metropolitan broadcaster Seven West Media, announced Mr Hartigan's appointment last week.

Prime chief executive Ian Audsley has been particularly vocal in his lobbying for the abolition of the reach rule, which prevents regional free-to-air networks from merging with metro networks.

Asked if he shared his chief executive's views, Mr Hartigan said: ''I do broadly share them. I'm leaving my views to be properly formulated until I engage with some of the players, but yes, I think the reach rules have largely become irrelevant.''


Mr Hartigan, 66, was sure his corporate career was over when he retired as News' chief executive and chairman in 2011, after 40 years working for Rupert Murdoch.

''When I finished at News, that was it,'' he said. ''I did so because I recognised that I'd been in one place for a very long while and, secondly, was reaching a somewhat serious age. Thirdly, I was pretty much done for … I just needed to catch my breath.''

He began his career as a copy boy with Fairfax Media in 1964 before joining News' Daily Mirror in 1970. He worked as a reporter with The Sun in London, the New York Post and went on to become editor-in-chief of The Daily Telegraph.

Mr Hartigan is the chairman of tourism body Destination NSW and a trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground.

He was not immediately taken with the Prime offer, but after meeting with Mr Audsley and the board, as well as learning about the company's regional assets, he was impressed. Key to his acceptance of the Prime role was the chance to work with Seven chairman and billionaire Kerry Stokes. ''I think he [Mr Stokes] has an intrinsic understanding of programming,'' he said. ''You can put all sorts of things out to research, but often it comes down to gut instinct.''