Thursday, 25 March 2021
Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Broadcasting Services Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021 includes a range of six measures to reduce regulatory burden, reform outdated regulations that are no longer fit for purpose and enable Australia's media industry to continue to provide services and content valued by audiences across the country.
Schedule 1 to the bill proposes to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to reduce the expenditure required by subscription broadcast channel providers and licensees on new eligible drama expenditure from 10 per cent to five per cent.
These amendments will reduce the regulatory burden on channel providers and licensees, and form part of a broader set of reforms to the regulation of Australian content announced by this government on 30 September 2020. These reforms include measures to: modernise Australian content rules for commercial free-to-air broadcasters (including simplifying and reducing obligations); and provide greater support for the production and distribution of Australian content, particularly in drama, documentary and children's content.
The changes to the drama expenditure requirement for subscription broadcasters included in the bill reform unsustainable obligations on the industry and create a more consistent regulatory framework. They are part of a package of measures that will enable Australians to continue to have access to Australian content across a range of mediums, regardless of whether they prefer to watch free-to-air television, subscription television or streaming services.
The bill proposes allowing future rules for subscription television captioning to made via ministerial instrument. The captioning rules for subscription television captioning are very complex. There is limited transparency for consumers in the level of captioning on different subscription television channels.
The current exemption and application processes mean that captioning targets can be altered during the year and even during the annual reporting process. Exemptions are not based on objective criteria, so there is no transparency as to why some services are exempt and some are not.
The application process for exemptions is onerous for licensees and for the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The subscription television industry, the Australian Communications and Media Authority and consumer groups support a simplified and more transparent framework for subscription television captioning.
The proposed instrument to govern future subscription television captioning requirements will be a disallowable instrument and the existing legislation would not lapse until the disallowance period passes.
The bill proposes to remove the existing requirement on regional and remote television broadcasters to provide additional captioning on free-to-air multichannels beyond that provided by metropolitan TV broadcasters.
This requirement is an anomaly that arose from the change of regional network affiliations in 2016. The removal of this additional obligation will help viewers in regional and remote areas to continue receiving access to the multichannels.
The bill proposes enabling a retrospective application of grandfathering powers to protect radio broadcasters from potential breaches when the Australian Communications and Media Authority makes a population determination under section 30 of the Broadcasting Services Act.
The proposal also includes a sunsetting provision of five years for the application of these amended grandfathering powers. This clearly signals to licensees the government's commitment to review the state of the market and their provision of services in relation to these provisions.
These proposed arrangements will support broadcasters in meeting their requirements while balancing net population movements that affect licence population areas, under the section 30 determinations, and having regard to market conditions supporting competition and low barriers for new licensees.
The bill also proposes to make two minor amendments to ensure that the provisions for the broadcasting industry remain current.
The first amendment proposed would remove a redundant requirement for digital radio planning in the Radiocommunications Act 1992. Digital radio could previously be provided in different parts of the spectrum, but now the standard has been reduced to one. There is, therefore, no requirement for planning within a licence area to ensure that all channels are within the same spectrum band.
The second amendment proposed is to add an additional time frame to that currently provided for the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation program to enable funding delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic to be allocated beyond 1 July 2021.
These measures demonstrate the government's commitment to reform and streamline regulation across the broadcasting industry.
I commend the bill to the House.