Monday, 9 November 2020
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020 as amended by Mr Watts. Australian media, as we all know, are facing many challenges with respect to technology and changing audiences, and traditional business models have had to change. Centre Alliance is aware of these challenges, which is why in 2017 we negotiated for an ACCC inquiry into the impact digital platforms were having on advertising in the media market, as part of our support of the government's media regulation reforms. As a direct result of that inquiry, the government directed the ACCC to develop a mandatory code of conduct to address bargaining power imbalances between Australian news media and digital platforms. Two of the world's biggest platforms, Google and YouTube, have instigated a campaign using their audiences regarding this draft code, which has caused some concern in my community.
We've only seen the exposure draft, and Centre Alliance needs to see the final legislation before we feel that we really need to reach a position. However, we believe media operators should be fairly compensated for the content they produce, and that includes the ABC and SBS. The media landscape is changing and regulations need to change to keep pace, and that's why we will support this bill before the House. This bill primarily provides flexibility for regional, commercial and television broadcasters to meet local content obligations. In some limited circumstances it also provides some relief from obligations. Regional commercial radio broadcasters will be able to split their local news and information content obligation exemptions into two periods, and, in certain circumstances, regional and remote television broadcasters constrained by commercial agreements with metropolitan broadcasters will be deemed to have complied with the Australian content quota.
This is about making regional media voices sustainable, and that's something that we support. It's one of the reasons why I approached the Minister for Finance in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis to request some flexibility to use my office budget to include community radio. As an elected member, I use the resources—as do all of us here—to communicate with my community. Public safety information and Treasury support measures relating to COVID-19 were particularly important, so I sent out a newsletter to households, and I placed advertisements in regional newspapers and content on my social media platforms. However, it was brought to my attention by community radio stations that they felt they had been overlooked, and this is because the Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations used to preclude the use of office expenses to pay for such broadcasting. So I wrote to the finance minister, and I'm very pleased that the government agreed with that view, and now all of us in this place can support our community broadcasters as well as ensuring that we can get our messages to our communities—particularly with respect to COVID, which was so critical—out as far and wide as we possibly can. As I said, I would like to thank the minister for having the vision to include that.
Community radio engages 5.8 million people each year. It's an extremely effective medium for reaching regional audiences. I know firsthand. I've had a long association with community radio, although I'm no longer a volunteer, and it's volunteers who keep community radio stations alive. More than 25 years ago I had my own program on community radio. My hair was a different colour then; there was a lot less grey in it! But there was that youthful exuberance, and I loved it. And I would like to give a call-out to a lady called Judith Waugh. Judith Waugh still has a show on Coast FM. She was a wonderful mentor to me. She was very warm and engaging and invited me onto her show. That's where I learnt about community radio and that's where I built the confidence to eventually have my own show.
I have so many amazing community radio stations in my electorate. I've got TribeFM at Willunga, Triple Z at McLaren Vale, KIX FM on Kangaroo Island, Alex FM at Goolwa, Happy FM and Fleurieu FM on the south coast and Lofty Radio in the Adelaide Hills, and then online there's Hills Radio—and we're hoping Hills Radio might be able to receive a proper broadcast licence. I regularly talk to Bob, Jack, Mike, Dianne, Janet, Tanya and Chris, as well as one young person who in a way reminds me of myself when I was on radio. His name is Ryder Grooby. Ryder is 12 years of age, and he has his own radio station on Fleurieu FM, on Thursdays, and he's an amazing young man. Community radio is a wonderful training ground for young people.
I would really encourage every member in this place, if they don't already do so, to get into your community radio stations. They will warmly welcome you, and they will be willing to chat about anything you're interested in, as long as it's based in the community. We talk about everything from raising dogs—I have a Great Dane, and we talk about that—all the way through to community issues that are happening in our area. It's lots of good fun. I'd also like to acknowledge a gentleman who's recently retired from Happy FM and has been the lifeblood of Happy FM. His name is Ken Burgess. Ken has moved up to sunny Queensland. He's left Victor Harbor and is deeply missed in our community. Thank you, Ken, for all your years of dedication and volunteering. That's what this is all about; it's about volunteering.
I commend this bill to the House. I look forward to being able to support my regional community radio stations and regional newspapers in my electorate into the future.