Thursday, 4 December 2008
Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television Switch-over) Bill 2008
Consideration in Detail
Just so that members of the House have not been confused by that waffle, I want to point out clearly what the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television Switch-over) Bill 2008 is all about. This debate is being broadcast and there are many millions of Australians who want to know what is going on here and they have not been edified by the good member for Dunkley. So let me remind you. The bill allows the minister to determine local market areas for switch-over, switch-over dates for those markets and the simulcast period for entire television licence areas. This would mean that some areas could switch off analog earlier than currently permitted—common sense. And the geographical areas smaller than television licence areas could be the basis for a switch-over timetable—common sense.
The bill allows the minister to vary the switch-over date three months either side of the initial date. No problems with that—common sense. This will effectively provide a six-month window which the government can use to finetune dates for switch-over in particular areas to respond to specific local circumstances. Switch-over can be extended beyond three months only in exceptional circumstances where the initial date would cause significant technical problems for broadcasters and where those problems could not have been reasonably foreseen up to six months before the switch-over date—common sense.
So having an understanding now of what it takes to get a service in a regional area up and running, I believe we need to allow time for the changeover but also flexibility. That is the key word: flexibility. This flexibility may also include areas that are ahead of schedule, although there are not many ahead of schedule currently and that is the problem we have. Few Australians are taking up digital television, and the reason is the mob on the other side did not do anything about it. And now they want to slow it down.
This flexibility may also include areas that are ahead of schedule, as I mentioned, and ready to switch off analog services before the planned date, saving costs on simulcasting—common sense.