Monday, 2 March 2015
Broadcasting and Other Legislation Amendment (Deregulation) Bill 2015; Second Reading
I wish to make a brief contribution on the Broadcasting and Other Legislation Amendment (Deregulation) Bill 2015. I am in substantial agreement with what Senator Siewert indicated. She is right: it should not be up to the hearing impaired community to raise these serious concerns so at the last minute they are fixed. Senator Conroy made that point. I perhaps would not have made it in exactly those terms, but I am pleased the amendments have gone some considerable way in dealing with the concerns for the hearing impaired community. I think that is unambiguously a good thing.
I indicate my strong support for Senator Ludlam's second reading amendment in respect of community television. Community television is a critical part of community infrastructure. I am concerned they are being left behind. They are in a sense being almost defunded. Not being able to have access to the spectrum is going to destroy community TV. If you look at the history of community TV, you will see all sorts of talent that got an opportunity to develop their skills. It is a very cost-effective training ground for creative talent. I think Rove McManus and many others started on community TV. I think Hamish and Andy did—and I will stand corrected if that is not the case. It is not just the creative on-air talent; it is also the technicians—those who learn how to do camera work and the technical aspects. It is an incredibly valuable training ground.
Because community TV is often run largely by volunteers it is a very cost-effective way of having community engagement and having people learn skills. I think the government has made a mistake. For the cost of keeping community TV alive and prospering, which is next to nothing in terms of the money required, we will end up seeing the dismantling of a very valuable community asset.
I will be moving amendments in respect of this bill. It relates to the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Material of Local Significance) Bill 2013 that I put up. I know that Senator Conroy said that not enough time was provided. In a sense, this bill was subject to a report of the Senate Standing Committees on Environment and Communications, and it is fair to say that both the government and the opposition did not support this bill. If there has been a change of heart on the part of the opposition, I would be pleased to discuss that further with the opposition in respect of this.
The thrust of the amendment as contained in my bill, which I will be moving in the course of the committee stage, is to insert a new paragraph (h) into section 43A(2):
The effect of this is to include Regional South Australia in the areas to which regional aggregated commercial television broadcasting licences apply.
Under the Act, broadcasters holding these licences must meet specific conditions set out by ACMA regarding local content and 'material of local significance'. This will ensure that regional South Australians continue to benefit from news and programming that is relevant to their communities.
The areas currently listed under subsection 43A(2) (excluding Tasmania, which was added in 2008) were originally set out in the Act in the late 1980s. Consideration of the markets in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory was intended to take place following this, but never occurred .
Given the vast differences in today's broadcasting environment, I believe it is vital that regional markets have equal and adequate protection in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
When I move the amendment, I will make some additional comments in respect of this but that is the thrust of it. In all, I support this bill. I support the Greens' second reading amendment in terms of community television. I think there has been an opportunity lost in respect of this bill; the government could have used this bill as a vehicle to do something about community TV and, indeed, about local regional content.