Wednesday, 2 June 2021
Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021; Second Reading
I would like to thank the members who have contributed to the debate on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021. This bill will make amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to reduce regulatory burdens, reform outdated regulations and assist Australia's media industry to keep providing content valued by Australians.
The amendments to the drama expenditure obligations on subscription broadcasters and their channel providers are an important part of the government's broader reforms to the regulation of Australian content. Subscription broadcasters have been significantly impacted by digital disruption and the shift of audiences to other, unregulated services. With falling revenues and audiences, it is important to recalibrate the regulatory burden on this sector and create a level playing field in terms of the obligations imposed on traditional and new media. These amendments continue the government's efforts to simplify regulations, provide effective support for the production industry and enable Australians to have access to Australian content across a range of media.
The bill will allow future rules for subscription television captioning to be made through the means of a disallowable ministerial instrument. This will facilitate the simplification of an extremely complex and onerous set of rules that currently offer little transparency to consumers about what is being captioned.
I am tabling an addendum to the explanatory memorandum to provide further information which addresses the questions raised by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills on the proposed subscription TV captioning scheme.
The bill proposes to clarify the operation of grandfathering powers under section 43C(4) and section 52 of the Broadcasting Services Act that protect regional radio broadcasters from inadvertently breaching statutory control and local content requirements with respect to the making of new population determinations under section 30 by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The bill also provides for a five-year sunset arrangement in relation to the operation of these grandfathering powers. This measure will signal to licensees the government's intent to review the state of the media sector to take account of the evolving nature of Australian media markets and the populations they serve when determining the ongoing application of these provisions. The intention of these sunset arrangements under section 43C and section 52 are clarified in the addendum to the explanatory memorandum to the bill. The government anticipates that these grandfathering arrangements will remain as drafted in the absence of significant population changes relating to a section 30 determination.
The bill also proposes to make two minor amendments to ensure that the provisions for the broadcasting industry remain current. The first amendment proposed is to remove a redundant requirement for digital radio planning in the Radiocommunications Act. As digital radio is now only provided in one part of the spectrum under one standard there is no need for the requirement to ensure that planning within a licence area is within the same spectrum band. The second proposed amendment is to extend the time frame currently provided to the Australian Communications and Media Authority to administer financial grants. This would enable funding under the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund that may have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic to be allocated within the 2021-22 financial year, if required. The amendment will not change the total quantum of funding awarded to grantees under the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund.
These five measures demonstrate the government's commitment to reform and to streamline regulation across broadcasting services. I thank members for their contribution to the debate and I comment the bill to the chamber.