Legislation that would overhauling Australia’s media landscape has been introduced to Federal Parliament. The Government introduced two Bills to the Senate that would free up the rules to allow companies to own any media assets as long as there are at least five media operators in mainland capitals and four in other areas.Further legislation is to be introduced to the House of Representatives today.

Nationals senators Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash and Nationals MP Paul Neville have signalled they may cross the floor or abstain from voting on the legislation, citing concerns about the laws’ impact on media diversity in regional areas.

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2006 and the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Bill 2006 were read a first time and adjourned.

Debate on the legislation was likely to begin during next month’s sittings of parliament, a spokeswoman for the Parliamentary Liaison Office said.

Nationals MPs concerned about the changes’ impact on regional media want tougher limits on regional markets that would ban a company from owning more than two out of three formats - television, radio or print.

Communications Minister Helen Coonan has warned against overregulating Australia’s media industry.