Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed further deregulation of the media industry as he praised media mogul Rupert Murdoch as the ''most normal'' proprietor he knows.
The current rules prevent metropolitan free-to-air television networks from merging with regional affiliates. The so-called ''two-out-of-three rule'', also prevents a single entity owning more than two of a newspaper, TV station and radio licence in the same market. Mr Turnbull held a two-hour meeting with media executives last week.
It is understood Ten Network Holdings and Nine Entertainment Co argued for the removal of the regional reach rules and the two-out-of-three rule. Mr Murdoch's News Corp is also believed to have supported the scrapping of the two-out-of-three rule, with the Seven Network less enthusiastic about the reform.
Mr Turnbull said he was ''very sympathetic'' to deregulation of media ownership. ''Why, in an age when the internet has become the super platform … which everyone has access to … why do we need to have platform-specific ownership rules dealing with newspapers and radio and television? That in an increasingly … smaller part of the media landscape.''
''One of the big differences between my approach to this and [former communications minister] Stephen Conroy's, is that Conroy and the Labor Party saw the arrival of the internet as an opportunity for more regulation and less freedom in the media.
''My view is the arrival of the internet, and the additional diversity and avenues for competition that it brings, really says we should have less regulation and more freedom.''
Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave qualified backing to Mr Turnbull when he told reporters on Sunday the government had a ''deregulationist instinct'' when it came to media.
''Look, we are consulting with people in the sector,'' Mr Abbott said. ''Our mindset is always to make rules less rather than more onerous, but let's wait and see where those consultations go.''
Mr Turnbull also hosed down suggestions he had described Mr Murdoch as a ''demented plutocrat,'' arguing the News Corp head is the ''most normal'' media mogul he knows. ''I've known a lot of media moguls, right? A lot of them. And let me tell you something, in terms of normality, Rupert is the most normal of the lot,'' Mr Turnbull told Sky News on Sunday.
''When you compare him to Conrad Black, to Kerry Packer to Bob Maxwell, Jimmy Goldsmith … Rupert is a very, very straightforward, normal person.''
Mr Turnbull made the comments when asked to explain his use of the phrase ''demented plutocrat'' when he launched The Saturday Paper last month in Sydney.
During the speech Mr Turnbull quipped of publisher Morry Schwartz: ''You are not some demented plutocrat pouring more and more money into a loss-making venture that is just going to peddle your opinions.''
While Mr Turnbull has insisted he was referring to US newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, some have seen this as a dig at Mr Murdoch. The Communications Minister said he was shocked his comments were misinterpreted.
with Jake Mitchell