Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017; In Committee

12:52 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Minister for Communications) Share this | Hansard source

If someone were tuned in listening to Senator O'Neill's contribution, they could have been forgiven for believing that the SBS and the ABC are sovereign states. They're not. They are creations of this parliament and operate within the laws that this parliament determines. And the parliament determines different laws from time to time.

In moving this amendment, the opposition is signalling that its policy is that weaker gambling advertising restrictions should apply to SBS than would apply to all other online content service providers. Legislating an exemption for SBS would distort competitive neutrality, as SBS would be able to self-regulate and all other online content service providers would be subject to direct regulation of gambling promotions during live coverage of sporting events.

A key objective of the government's policy is for the same or similar restrictions to apply across all broadcast, subscription and online platforms on which gambling promotions are provided in conjunction with live coverage of sporting events to ensure consistency for viewers and ensure that no content provider is at a competitive or regulatory disadvantage or advantage as a result of the restrictions. The government acknowledges the importance of independence for public broadcasters. However, this does not mean that rules that limit social harm arising from exposure to gambling promotions should not apply to the SBS. As I referred to before, SBS has independence within the parameters set by the parliament. This does not mean, and it has never meant, that SBS is free to do whatever it likes. In no way, shape or form can this legislation be seen to be attacking the editorial independence of the SBS. The SBS is already subject to other legislation aimed at preventing social harm from advertising, such as the ban on tobacco advertising. It's also subject to election advertising regulation, so seeking to apply these restrictions to SBS is an appropriate measure for which there is precedent.

The ACMA will be given power to grant individual or class exceptions for online content service providers or particular online content services, and SBS may apply for such an exemption, so a legislative exemption for SBS is unnecessary. The government can't support a proposition that SBS not be subject to the same rules that will apply to all other online content service providers.

I note in conclusion that Save Our SBS, which is, I guess, the analogous organisation to the Friends of the ABC, does not support the Australian Labor Party's amendment and does support the government's proposition in this regard.


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