Commercial television networks have leapt on the release of a Department of Communications research paper into Australian media ownership to renew calls for a relaxation of laws on media mergers and acquisitions.
The federal government is considering scrapping media ownership laws - including the law which prevents owners from controlling a newspaper, television station and radio station in the same market.
The release of the 78-page study came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott shared a private dinner with Rupert Murdoch at the News Corporation co-chairman's apartment during a busy schedule of political and business meetings in New York.
The Department of Communications paper does not make specific recommendations for reform, but gives a generally sanguine view of potential changes to media ownership laws.
It finds abolishing the 75 per cent ''reach rule'' - which prevents television broadcasters from creating truly national networks - could lead to a consolidation in ownership. But it would be ''unlikely to result in a substantial reduction in the number of commercial television broadcasters operating in the affected geographical markets''.
A likely outcome would be a metropolitan network - such as Seven, Nine or Ten - buying an affiliated regional network such as Prime or WIN. It also noted regional commercial television broadcasters are required to provide 90 minutes of local content a week and this would not be affected by ownership changes.
And it found the ''two out of three'' rule - which prevents a company from owning a TV network, radio station and newspaper in the same market - does not prevent ''some of the more significant hypothetical media transactions''.
The ''broader financial headwinds'' facing the media industry could lessen the impact of removing the rule by putting a dampener on merger activity, according to the report.
The report found the internet may lead to a significant growth in media diversity but that established media players have dominated the online space.
Ten Network chief executive Hamish McLennan called for the media ownership laws to be scrapped, labelling them ''outdated, ineffective and anti-competitive''.
Nine Entertainment Co said: ''We believe removal of the rule is critical to the future of broadcasting, and regional broadcasting in particular, and we will work with government throughout their consultation process.''
One of the most speculated transactions in recent years has been a tie-up between News Corp Australia and the Ten Network, in which Lachlan Murdoch is a significant shareholder.
Mr Abbott spent more than 2½ hours at Mr Murdoch's upscale apartment near Central Park on Tuesday evening. Mr Abbott's chief-of-staff Peta Credlin attended the meal, which News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson and New York Post editor Col Allan were also expected to attend.
A spokeswoman for Mr Abbott would not comment on what he and Mr Murdoch discussed, saying it was a private meal.
Mr Abbott, who has been criticised for not locking in meetings with global economic leaders during his US trip, earlier said he was keen to meet the ''distinguished Australian''.
In a speech to a dinner held by the free market Institute of Public Affairs last year, Mr Abbott praised Mr Murdoch as one of three Australians who have ''most shaped the world'' (alongside World War I military commander John Monash and penicillin developer Howard Florey).
Mr Abbott said of Mr Murdoch: ''His publications have borne his ideals but never his fingerprints.''
The story TV networks push for ownership reform as Tony Abbott pays a call on Rupert Murdoch first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.