Monday, 20 August 2018
Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017; Second Reading
I thank the members who have contributed to the debate on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017. The two measures in this bill—the establishment of the Register of Foreign Ownership of Media Assets and a change to the criteria for assessing community radio licence applications and renewals—are just two measures forming part of the government's broader reform package.
The first measure—the establishment of the register—will enhance the transparency of the levels and sources of foreign investment in Australian media companies. The public relies on the media to set the news agenda of the day, and the media sector's influence in shaping public discussion on important matters is well established. In this context, measures to establish transparency about foreign investment in our media are appropriate. The register proposed in this bill will achieve this outcome whilst also ensuring that the Australian public is not left in the dark. The register will complement existing regulatory frameworks governing foreign investment in Australia, including under Australia's foreign investment review framework, the Australian Securities Exchange and under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. To an extent it has been modelled on the national Register of Foreign Ownership of Water or Agricultural Land, which has already significantly increased the public's knowledge of the levels and sources of foreign investment in our agricultural sector.
The second measure, being the amending of criteria for allocating and renewing community radio licences, will require the Australian Communications and Media Authority to specifically consider the extent to which the applicant will provide material of local significance. Material of local significance is defined as material that is produced or hosted in the relevant licensed area or which relates to the licensed area. Community radio plays an important role in informing local communities and providing community members with the opportunity to have their views heard. This will ensure that broadcasters are required to consider how they can boost local participation in creating programs or how they can provide more coverage of topics and issues that are relevant to their local communities.
The government also moved an amendment to add a third measure to the bill. The third measure will address an anomaly arising from the application of the local programming requirements to a commercial television broadcaster in regional Western Australia. It will ensure that local programming obligations apply in an equal way to the two commercial television broadcasters who broadcast to the same geographic area. Local programming is important, and this amendment maintains the requirement that relevant licensees broadcast a specified amount of local content after a trigger event but will ensure that these requirements apply more fairly across the regional Western Australian licences. I call on all members to support the bill.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.