Monday, 9 November 2020
Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading
The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020 is an important bill, because it's offering some regulatory relief and therefore cost relief to many regional broadcasters, who are facing an existential dilemma. As you know, digital platforms have changed the way people engage with the media. Digital platforms involve streaming video on demand—Netflix and Stan—or, before that, just regular pay TV. The other digital giants in the platform, since Google and Facebook, are hoovering up the vast majority of potential advertising revenue. And, to add insult to injury, a lot of regional TV and in particular broadcasters are buying shows from the major metropolitan broadcasters, and the potential for them to earn income to keep them a viable business is limited if the shows that they have bought from the major broadcasters come with ads already embedded in them, so that the portion of time in which they can place local ads is reduced. So, these practical, commonsense amendments make a lot of sense, and hopefully they will put our regional radio broadcasters and our regional TV broadcasters in a better space.
The first exemption is regarding local content, or material of local significance, which is its formal name—news, weather, community service announcements or emergency announcements. Under the current legislation, there can be leave given over a five-week period, but, as media markets do quieten down over more than just the Christmas-New Year period, it will allow them to split this five-week so-called leave pass or exemption into two periods. That will work with the ebb and flow of the advertising market as well, and with what people's habits are when they go on long holidays over the major holiday periods of Easter and school holidays, and the big one at Christmas time. It will also allow that the three-yearly mandatory statutory review will no longer be required, and the trigger events that will create changes in more local content requirements will be similarly adjusted.
In the regional TV situation, the mandatory local content is really what attracts people, and that's what I'd like to bring to the attention of the House. Regional broadcasters deliver a lot of local and regional news, which is what most people in regional Australia are looking for. Because the other media are saturated with the national and international news, their point of difference is the local and the regional news items. And they are suffering from the same phenomena. Many potential advertising markets are suffering on traditional broadcasters, because, as I said, a lot of the eyeballs that watched TV in the old system, where you just had four major broadcasters, are now watching streaming video on demand, or they're getting their entertainment via streaming on Facebook; so the advertising is going onto the Facebook platform or the Google platform, and, as a result, as there are only so many advertising dollars available, that's diverting potential customers away from our regional TV and radio broadcasters.
The subcontent for drama, children's TV and documentary production is still required, however. That is a big relief to many people. We don't want to lose our local drama being seen, because, if we are ever going to grow our local screen production, getting shows on TV is a great way of doing that.
So these are practical, commonsense measures. They will, hopefully, support many local and regional TV and radio stations. We have plenty of them in the Lyne electorate, from the broadcasters in the Hunter Valley to those in the Manning and Great Lakes regions and up into the Hastings and Port Macquarie areas. They are all distinct markets. The TV media washes over the whole lot. Certainly we have many local community radio stations like Great Lakes FM and Bucketts Radio, and we have recently had a community radio station set up down in the Tea Gardens area, which is great news.
We all like our local and regional producers. We hope these amendments will make a material difference to them all.