Monday, 24 June 2013
Broadcasting Legislation Committee; Report
From this side of the House and on indulgence, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Mallee on his valedictory speech. I know that I can sincerely say that the member for Mallee is a much loved and widely respected member of this chamber and I congratulate, you, member for Mallee, on your service to your electorate and your service to this chamber.
I have had the great privilege and honour of working with you on committees and I also congratulate you on your service to this nation. I hope that you and Pam in your future endeavours succeed in everything that you set out to do and, when you finally depart public life, may you and Pam have a long, happy and healthy retirement. Well done.
On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Broadcasting Legislation, I present the committee's report incorporating dissenting reports entitled Three broadcasting reform proposals. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.
The parliament established the committee at the same time as the government released its broadcasting legislation reforms in March of this year. The government's package of bills was in response to two thorough high-profile reviews—the convergence review into the policy and regulatory frameworks around converging media and communications; and the Finkelstein review into codes of practice, convergence and the production of quality news.
The committee's terms of reference centred on three potential policy changes that the government considered could also be implemented: abolishing the 75 per cent audience reach rule for television; providing that a program supply agreement alone could indicate control of a broadcaster; and giving the Australian Communications and Media Authority the power to require on air reporting of its findings.
The committee held a public hearing into the first term of reference on Monday, 18 March 2013 here in Canberra. It received submissions on all three terms of reference from 13 organisations.
The committee supports the first policy proposal, because the reach rule is becoming redundant with the advent of the internet and converging media; however, there was concern at the hearing whether local regional news would continue if the reach rule were abolished. Therefore the committee's support for the proposal is based on two conditions: there should be legislation or legally enforceable undertakings to support local content in regional Australia; and there should also be a clear definition of local content to ensure that regional viewers have access to appropriate levels of high-quality, locally devised and locally presented programming.
The committee does not support the second proposal. There was no support for it during the inquiry; however, it may be appropriate to revisit this issue at a later date, especially given that governments and the parliament regularly review and change broadcasting policy. The committee supports giving the Australian Communications and Media Authority the power to require on-air corrections, clarifications and directions based on its findings.
The authority demonstrated to the committee that there is a gap in the sanctions it can impose on broadcasters. Industry expressed a range of concerns during the inquiry about on-air reporting of regulatory findings; however, these issues can be addressed and doing so will ensure that the measure will be fair on broadcasters.
Finally, on behalf of the chair, I thank the organisations that assisted the committee during the inquiry through submissions and participating at the hearing. I also thank my colleagues on the committee for their contribution to the inquiry and the report. I thank the House.