The Gillard government's ''convergence review'' is about to report on what kind of media laws are needed in a new media age.
Judging by their aggressive responses to its interim report, many media companies think the question is not what kind of laws we should have, but whether there should be many at all.
The review is based on the premise that existing laws must be updated for the technology of the times, which looks very different than it did in the days when Paul Keating passed rules to make sure media moguls could be ''princes of print or queens of the screen'', but not both.
Its interim findings proposed that large ''content service providers'' - whether print, broadcast or online - should be regulated by a new independent body, which would police pared-back rules about concentration of media ownership, content standards and Australian content.
Most of the major media companies disagree.
News Ltd, for example, calls the proposals ''deeply flawed''.
The Newspaper Publishers' Association, of which News and Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald, are members, contests the report's presumption that the current regulatory regime for broadcast media should be extended to all media, saying broadcasters are regulated because they use a ''scarce resource'', that is spectrum, there is no reason to extend this regulation to other media, and no reason to change the current self-regulation system for print.
The recommendations are also flawed, according to News Ltd's own submission, and also according to other companies including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, ninemsn and Telstra, because the new media world allows in all kinds of new entrants with all kinds of content, without the need for regulation.
But according to those conducting the review, these criticisms are motivated in part by misunderstanding, and in even bigger part by commercial self-interest.
First to the misunderstanding. A spokesman for the review says the deep concerns expressed by many ''new'' media companies that they would fall within the regulatory net is misplaced, because the ''threshold'' for which companies would be considered ''content service enterprises'' would be high.
''There has been a lot of misunderstanding. We have said the content services enterprise bar will be very, very, high; we expect it will probably only be existing regulated media enterprises that … would fall within that … although it may be that over the medium term new entrants grow to the point to where they hit the threshold,'' a spokesman says.
Second, to the self-interest. ''Understandably companies are looking at their business interests over the next six months, but we are looking at the national interest over the next 20 years,'' the spokesman said. He said all businesses preferred less regulation, but the logical conclusion to the argument that only media using ''scarce spectrum'' should be regulated was that pretty soon the media would not be regulated at all.
''Do you say there is nothing Australia can do, the internet has brought borders down, we give up … there's nothing we can do about concentration of ownership, if one enterprise controls much of the new world there's nothing we can do?
''We argue that is not the case, we argue there is an argument for limited continued intervention.
''It is not healthy for a democracy to allow undue concentration of ownership of media assets and the argument that it is all over because the internet allows you to pull down anything from anywhere, well yes, that's true but the counter argument is the vast majority of Australians still consume the vast majority of their media from the major organisations and that is likely to continue to be the case.''
Media companies were particularly angered by the review's proposal for both a new rule about how many different types of media one player could own, and also a ''public interest test'' for media mergers to allow ''flexibility'' for future governments facing new, possibly still unenvisaged, threats to media diversity.
The spokesman said the new test tried to deal with a rapidly changing media world. ''There may well be situations in the next 20 years that are difficult to predict, should we care if a major global internet company wanted to buy a free-to-air network … should the Australian government care if a telco that controls the 'pipes' through which information is delivered also bought a content company and was then able to lock out competition from others … we are saying we should be able to assess whether future mergers like that are in the public interest.''
With the final report due next month, this argument is only just starting.