Senate debates

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017, Commercial Broadcasting (Tax) Bill 2017; Second Reading

6:27 pm

Photo of Jacqui LambieJacqui Lambie (Tasmania, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

The media landscape is changing fast. The industry is changing and the industry's regulation needs changing too. It's ridiculous to say that the only way to defend a struggling industry is to defend the regulation that's preventing it from defending itself against new and enormous threats. But concerns around the potential loss of media diversity as a result of the changes posed are real and valid. It is important that any deal to change regulation also protects media diversity in the process. Nobody wants any one media baron to have excessive power over the political landscape, and the best way to address concerns about private media ownership is to invest in publicly owned media. The government, with courage, would put whatever it's proposing to a vote. That's not what it has agreed to. Instead, reports suggest that the government has made some sneaky handshake deal in a back room somewhere to undermine the operations of the ABC, and it has gone behind the back of the Senate to do it.

I won't be supporting the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017, and I'm disappointed that I can't. I'm disappointed that I can't support this bill because I support in principle what it's trying to achieve, but I will not be a part of taking a pitchfork to the ABC.

6:28 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I did have a prepared speech but I want to address that contribution from Senator Lambie. The media reform as presented in this suite of initiatives by the government on a very vexed and difficult issue, which befuddled the opposition when it was in power—I remember under Senator Conroy trying to find some way to ensure the sustainability and diversity of our media in the face of incredible disruption—does not mean a pitchfork to the ABC and does not mean media barons. I'd much rather an Australian own a media company in this country than a foreign company own a media company in this country, which is exactly what can occur, Senator Lambie, under current arrangements. I'm happy to walk you through it if you'd like.

What we have in front of us for this debate is a bill with a comprehensive suite of measures to bring the Australian media landscape out of the 1980s, the era of Michael J Fox, Back to the Future, Duran Duran—you might remember it, Senator Seselja and Senator Smith—before mobile phone companies outbid broadcasters to stream the Ashes or other cricket games, netball games, as we've got at the moment, or indeed AFL. That has always been the purview of our TV broadcasters, but they're being outbid for those sorts of rights and initiatives, and increasingly Australians are using their mobile phones in new and innovative ways that mean that the old regulation, the old way we regulated and the framework in which our media environment exists, is no longer tenable.

I was part of the joint committee in 2013 that made very similar recommendations, and I remember that the National Party then refused to support certain changes to aspects of our media laws because we too were concerned about local content in regional areas. We were worried about large media companies swamping our smaller newspapers, radio broadcasters and TV broadcasters. But five years down the track the reality is that I would rather have some Australian media outlets in regional areas than none, and that is what we're staring down the barrel of if we don't give them a fighting chance to deliver the type of diversity that we need and that technology can deliver us over time even.

This was before we had Netflix, Stan, Facebook or Google. The media environment in this country has been severely disrupted, and we've seen a very direct result and impact of that disruption as journalists face job losses, as Australians turn away from broadsheets to Facebook for their news and as regional broadcasters struggle in the face of decreasing advertising revenue and decreasing eyeballs. We must do something to ensure that regional media diversity is sustainable going forward.

The reality for regional Australians, though, in the way we access information is different, culturally and technologically. We don't necessarily have access to the same communications infrastructure. It's not as easy for many regional Australians to interact with Netflix—yet; it will be, but right now it's not. So we needed to ensure in this package that regional media diversity and local content was secured, and I believe that we have a mechanism within this media reform package to ensure that. We have incentivised those companies who have boots on the ground in our communities, who have cameramen at our sporting events, who have journalists living and working amongst us, telling our stories, working with us to promote community events and sharing in the reporting of emergency broadcasts during bushfires, floods, cyclones and drought. This is the reality. Reporting on somebody's lived experience is very different than having it as part of your own. So, ensuring that this package incentivises media companies to keep that physical commitment to regional Australia—to have the journalists, the cameramen and the cadets locally to train up—is something that I am very pleased is part of this reform initiative.

In the two Senate inquiries that went to the heart of this bill there were issues around whether the reach rule would be repealed. Some of the concerns raised were that online streaming services—straight into peoples' homes, not those that require a broadcasting licence—don't have to include any local regional news, don't need to include any local regional advertising, don't include any local community service announcements and are not subject to the commercial television industry code of practice. So it's very rich for senators to come into this place and try and tell senators that live and work and represent regional communities that keeping the current system in place is better than dealing with the fact that right now regional capitals that have the technology infrastructure, like Bendigo, Sale or Pakenham, those live streaming suites and broadcasters, if you like—I mean, it's a very poor definition of what a broadcaster is, but that's a whole other issue which I think I raised in my additional comments to the Senate report—but don't actually have those sorts of requirements on them that we do put on our TV broadcasters right now. Our TV broadcasters, our WINs, our Prime 7s, are often competing against the mother ship, the mother company of 9, 7 or 10, streaming right into the living rooms with the evening news, without those requirements about backing regional small business and backing regional news.

In addition to the video-on-demand services and online streaming of metropolitan broadcasts, Prime, in its evidence to the committee, added that the regional television industry is facing several other significant structural challenges, including: a reduction in the size of regional advertising market; encountering a loss of $65 million over the last three years; a decline in actual audience numbers year on year, with the aggregated markets of Queensland, northern and southern NSW and Victoria losing 6.9 per cent of total audience; affiliation fees payable by regional broadcasters to metropolitan networks, which increase every year. You can't get MasterChef, you can't get Survivor unless you do the deal with the metropolitan affiliate. The fact that those affiliation fees go up and up year on year, despite declining revenue and declining eyeballs, is a significant issue for our regional broadcaster. That is why Mitch Fifield, as minister, has been able to perform the miraculous event at which all media outlets have come together as one to say, 'We need this change. We need this change to be sustainable to compete in the current media environment.'

I want to briefly make comments around the importance of meaningful local content for people living in regional areas. That was emphasised to the committee by the President of the NSW Farmers' Association, Mr Schoen:

It is vitally important to maintain local content in delivery of media services to country areas. It is a little bit like if I went to go to Sydney I would find the news there very alien to me. And if you came to Corowa, I am sure you would find the media that we dish out fairly alien to you. It is vitally important that the content is applicable to the audience that is going to receive it.

I can't back those comments more. That is why I was disappointed by Senator Lambie's comments around the ABC. I am a huge backer of the ABC, particularly local radio, which plays such a vital role in my regional communities—community service announcements; emergency service broadcasts; making sure we have local news and weather; local entertainment. In particular, some of our presenters can be very humorous and keep us laughing. It's the first dial most regional Australians go to. To see, over time, the ABC denuded of its regional voice and staffing, under Mark Scott in particular—I do note the current managing director and board's commitment, through the minister's focus, to actually increasing the level of staffing in regional areas. That is a great thing. It goes to the heart of ensuring local content is available for regional communities.

I want to go to the three-point system. Currently those senators that are opposing these changes are very happy for regional communities to have someone in Canberra read out Senator Urquhart's media releases, Senator Hanson-Young's media releases, Senator Smith's media releases—

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't do media releases!

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I shouldn't have taken that interjection, but unfortunately I did! But to read out members and senators' media releases and to say that that actually counts as local content—that is appalling. What this bill has done is incentivise those that have employed locally and have maintained that local journalistic commitment to the community. They will receive a points incentive. The regional broadcasters argued that the proposed inclusion of the three-point category for local content would not lead to a reduction in local content, as some others argued, but was indeed something that they very much supported. Prime Media Group said:

…we have committed to a local news bulletin in Western Australia, where we had no licence requirement to do it, says that we are not looking to cut back the amount of local content. We would much prefer to produce more local content.

Again, Mr Lancaster from WIN said:

From a practical perspective, if you as a broadcaster are going to go to the trouble of putting a cameraperson or a journalist … into a market to capture that footage to be locally relevant, why would you give it a reduced amount of time? It is good content. If you are going to invest in the capturing of that content to get that video content, you would not reduce the amount of minutes …

It doesn't make practical sense to those people involved in producing local content that the points system, as envisaged by the legislation, would result in a reduction of local content.

I also want to touch on the negotiations that seem to have been going on around this particular piece of legislation. I note Senator Hanson is in the chamber, and I recognise her support for the ABC rural and regional advocacy bill changes. In exchange for her support for the ABC media reforms, Senator Hanson and One Nation have seen the value in having a change to the ABC's charter, for it to reflect what community thinks it should do. That is: it should have a specific obligation to reflect the geographic diversity of our nation. She sees the value in having two people from rural and regional Australia with embedded experience on the board of the ABC. She sees the value.

Senator Xenophon and I worked on his short wave bill, and we went up with Senator McCarthy and Senator Urquhart to Darwin to talk to the Northern Territory community about the ABC's decision to cut broadcasting through short-wave technology to those communities of the Pacific and northern Australia. It was simply because the board did not consult with the communities affected, and the amount of information given to the board to make that decision was appalling. I would recommend the committee's report into that. Senator Xenophon is very concerned about that particular issue, and he knows the importance of the ABC consulting and having an advisory committee from rural and regional Australia on which to test their ideas around service delivery and the type of technology being used to service regional communities.

Finally, there are just some simple changes to the annual reporting of the ABC around staff and where they are located, to ensure that the ABC is delivering for regional communities. I would encourage and thank Senator Hanson for her support, particularly for those measures in my private senator's bill; I appreciate that very much.

The regional Australia media market is about our people telling our stories to our community—to live amongst us. And this suite of measures, aside from the gambling advertisement issues, sits around the review of children's content and removing and making sure the ownership laws of our media market actually reflect the reality of the 21st century. They give our media owners the flexibility to be nimble and innovative. It is an incredibly tough, disrupted environment out there right now.

In a liberal democracy like ours, you need a multitude of voices for the citizens to consider. Look at the public spend of local governments—and this is one of the issues raised in my private senator's bill, but it is instructive for this particular debate. When you look at the amount of public money being administered by local councils, often the only overseers, the only ones actually examining that spend and the decisions of local governments across this country, are newspapers like the Benalla Ensign, the Riverine Herald up in Echuca and what they look at with the Campaspe Shire, and the Bendigo Weekly, looking at how the Bendigo council administers its funds. It's very important—fundamental to the secure functioning of our democracy indeed—that we have a robust, diverse, sustainable local media.

I think our reforms are very thoughtful. The minister has widely consulted to ensure that the reform package being delivered here to the Senate tonight, and hopefully to be supported by the Senate this week, will deliver on the promise for Australia. We don't want to be a nation where American TV companies own our regional broadcasters and own our big broadcasters, where we have a diminishing amount of broadsheets available and everything moves online. It is rural and regional communities, and indeed the broader community, who will suffer. I have gone to the heart of ensuring that local production and local content is important.

The New South Wales Farmers' Association, in their submission on the bill, wanted to look at concerns around the footprint, expanding what definitions around 'local' entail. I know that ACMA will be looking at that. The New South Wales Farmers' Association wanted to request that ACMA be diligent in ensuring effective compliance activities in policing local content. They also recommended that consumer protections in voice and data and telecommunications be upgraded to ensure that regional people have equal access to both voice and data, because, as the media environment changes, it will be more and more important that all Australians are able to access a variety of media voices using a variety of technologies. Right now, in regional Australia, we are going ahead in leaps and bounds. The over 750 mobile phone towers that the coalition government has delivered to regional Australia are going a long way towards that. But the Productivity Commission's USO paper and indeed the government's deliberations around the universal service obligation will go quite deeply to how regional Australians will be able to access news content and information.

I did have a lot more to say around how ACMA can work with regional Australians' online footprint and ensure local content, but I know there are many other senators who need to speak on this. I commend all those who submitted to the Senate inquiries into this issue over a long period of time. I commend the minister for having a suite of arrangements which try and strike a balance between ensuring our media environment is forward looking, where our media owners are able to be nimble and innovative enough in this 21st century to deliver the content that we need to function, but also ensuring that they are financially sustainable going forward and that we have some rigour around the journalists who keep us all honest every single day of our lives in this job—and you wouldn't want it any other way. I would just like to see it across all levels of government. I commend the bill to the Senate.

6:48 pm

Photo of David LeyonhjelmDavid Leyonhjelm (NSW, Liberal Democratic Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak to the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017. The premise underlying broadcasting ownership laws—that government can decide who can and who can't own sections of the media—is little more than nanny state nonsense. It reminds me of countries that don't believe in free speech and where there is no right to hear points of view that are not approved. On top of that is aunty state nonsense, in which the government owns and operates multiple TV, radio and online media behemoths itself. These cost taxpayers a lot of money and compete with the commercial sector, making it less viable.

This bill reduces restrictions on commercial broadcasting ownership so that the nanny state is a little less intrusive and, hopefully, the commercial sector is better able to withstand the marauding aunty. Probably more significantly, the changes mean that some of the artificial restraints on traditional Australian media that have left them at a competitive disadvantage compared with international internet based businesses such as Google and Facebook will be removed. Global internet based media are expected to attract $4 billion to $5 billion worth of advertising revenue next year. This represents 35 to 40 per cent of the Australian advertising market, and this is only expected to rise, eroding ad revenue available to traditional media faster than any overall advertising growth.

The bill abolishes the two-out-of-three rule. This rule prevents someone from controlling a television station, radio station and non-national newspaper in the same region. Abolishing the rule would allow someone to control all three platforms in the region. This change is supported by most of the media and was specifically requested by the Ten Network in the face of major losses, because declining market share due to online competition has placed them under strain. We now see Ten will be taken over by the US company CBS, because local businesses are unable to do so because of the current legislation.

While I have no concerns about foreign investment in our media sector, I wonder whether those who have held up this legislation, in particular, Senators Xenophon and Hanson, believe they have done the right thing. Yes, some of the smaller and less efficient media organisations will be swallowed up by larger and more efficient companies, but that is how markets are supposed to work. Takeovers and bankruptcies are the means of selection in the commercial world. Survival depends on offering the cheapest, best value or greatest range to the benefit of consumers. Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell. Why be good if there is no consequence from doing otherwise?

Some oppose the reduction in ownership restrictions based on a view that wicked media barons might somehow take over our news and turn us into brain-washed zombies. This reflects a dated view of news and information. Tradition free-to-air television, radio and print media no longer control our access to news and entertainment because more and more of us are getting this from a wide range of sources on the internet. Media barons already own commercial broadcasting in Australia, so if media barons are a threat to our democracy, that threat exists as much under the current law as under this bill. Whenever people raise fears about media barons determining the news and controlling our minds, they fail to mention the continuing presence of the ABC and SBS. Zombies, indeed.

The bill will also amend the reach rule by removing the ban on owning licences that cover more than 75 per cent of Australia's population. The 75 per cent reach rule is generally regarded as redundant by the industry, given the availability of online content, which transcends geographic boundaries. These reforms are aimed at allowing Australian television, radio and newspaper companies to operate across more media platforms. However, the bill also inserts a requirement on anyone with more than 75 per cent coverage to air more regional and local content than they are currently required to do. Arguments that the relaxation of ownership laws will hurt Australians in our regions and that regional and local content rules are required to protect precious local content are a complete furphy.

The simple question is: which would you rather watch? A media conference by the Prime Minister or self-promotion by the local, political blowhard? The State of Origin match or amateur hour at West Wyalong school hall? A gripping US drama or an interminable fishing show about the local waterhole, where hardly anyone ever catches any fish? India versus Australia in the cricket or an interview with a crazy cat lady who lives in a dump bin at the edge of town? The latest movie blockbuster or a drawn-out tourist promo on the world's second largest ball of string? Just because you live in a regional area doesn't mean you are only interested in trivial local issues and want to be left in a low-budget, fly-blown, regional time warp.

Fortunately, the increased content rules in this bill are a mere blemish in an otherwise laudable bill. Not only does the bill reduce ownership restrictions, but it also changes the so-called antisiphoning rules that prevent pay television from bidding for certain sporting events, unless the event is also to be broadcast on free-to-air or the event starts within the next three months. The bill will allow pay television bids, where the event starts in the next six months, and delists all golf, some rugby league, soccer, rugby union, cricket, tennis, netball and motor sport. The effect of the antisiphoning rules is to reduce access to sports by pay TV. This depresses the prices paid for broadcasting rights, which, in turn, hurts sportsmen and women from the affected sports. It also hurts the sports fans who prefer pay TV, which can often offer a better, less interrupted viewing experience. If pay TV were able to bid for more sports, the pay TV market in Australia could expand, facilitating further improvements in the quality of viewing on offer. Expanding the pay TV market could even support the competition for Foxtel in subscription-based sports broadcasting.

We, in the Liberal Democrats, would like to go further than this bill; we would like to see an end to all restrictions on commercial media ownership, the abolition of local content rules, the abolition of restrictions on what pay TV can bid for and the privatisation of the ABC and SBS dinosaurs to boot. This is because the bottom line is that it is not the business of government to say who owns what and who broadcasts what. Both nannies and aunties are private matters, not matters for the government. However, insofar as this bill is a step in the right direction, I will be supporting it.

6:56 pm

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to contribute to the debate on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017, especially in relation to regional media. My chief of staff, Greg Kachel, is pretty well known around this building and he has been here with me for nine years, since I started my job on 1 July 2008—that's going back a while now, Senator Smith. I have the same four staff I started with—it means either jobs are scarce or I am a good boss; probably the former, I would think. I couldn't believe it when I moved from South Australia in 1979 to Inverell to find that, wow, they had their own local radio station. Greg had 32 years there—14 years working on the radio and 18 years as its manager. There were about 17 people employed at 2NZ and later on they brought in GEM FM. I think today they probably have five or six employed there.

What a great and essential service this radio station gives. For example, on 7 February 1991 we had a severe flood in Inverell. The staff were outside on the roof of the local radio station; they set up the transmitter out on the Glen Innes road and they broadcast for four days, relaying messages from the police and informing the community of what was going on with the clean-up et cetera. This is an essential service. This radio station has trained so many people. For example, Ashley Brown from Channel Seven started at 2NZ; Janine Toohey is at 2GB; Kelly Fuller is at ABC Tamworth. Kelly has just had time off on maternity leave, and I wish Kelly all the best when she returns to work. I'm glad she and her husband have the pleasure of a young baby boy. Luke Grant at 2GB spent many years working at 2NZ Inverell. He's a very humorous man; I've enjoyed his company very much. The local radio station is there to serve. I've mentioned my chief of staff, Greg Kachel. He was named best sports presenter in country radio one year and he also won the award for the best news event coverage for the 1991 Inverell flood. For years, 2NZ has had the best sports coverage, including the Grafton to Inverell Cycle Classic.

Then there's the humour of the local radio station. Years ago, there was a breakfast announcer named Terry Harkins. Come April Fools' Day, the jokes would often come out of the local radio station. One morning—1 April it was—Terry Harkins had a recording playing and the window was open. He said a livestock truck with a load of sheep had tipped over at the end of the town and the street was full of sheep. He was playing, 'Baa, baa,' and out of the window, through his microphone, he was calling for the local farmers: 'Jack, could you bring your sheep dog? We've got to round up these sheep up.' Of course, when Jack rolled in with his dog and his four-wheel drive Hilux, or whatever it was, there was no truck turned over; it was just an April Fools' Day joke. That was one of the many things that happened at the local radio station. There was the year that Pete Diskin was hosting breakfast on April Fools' Day. He said, 'Our chief-of-staff, Greg Kachel, the boss, has gone out to Copeton Dam to go camping and he's got the key to the music room,' so he didn't have any music; he kept playing the one track. He asked, 'Will you bring some music down?' and people were rolling up to the station with their CDs of music, saying, 'Here. Give these a run and play these.' Of course, it was simply an April Fools' Day joke, but people had a laugh out of it. This was the local entertainment by the local station. Greg was telling me that many years ago, when he started—about 41 years ago—there were about 17 people employed. Now there'd be five or six.

The point I make is that, for many in the media, businesses are doing it tough. I know that for a fact. For example, my wife, Nancy, worked for 10 years at The Bingara Advocate newspaper. For the last 20 years or so, she's owned that paper and a couple of years ago bought The Warialda Standard as well when that came on the market, because there was a risk that the The Warialda Standard would close down. If you lose your local paper in your local community, your country town, to a certain extent you lose the heart of your town—the communication—especially the towns with many elderly people who want to know where the meetings are and where the best bargains are at the IGA, et cetera. Nancy's worked hard in her business. I'm very proud of the work she's done. She doesn't make a lot of money, although in the 2015 financial year she made more than $1 billion. Yes, $1 billion more than Fairfax. Nancy made a profit and Fairfax lost a billion dollars. She still didn't make much money, but it was $1 billion more than Fairfax, which is a pretty good story, don’t you think?

All the media—newspapers, radio and, of course, television—are so essential to regional communities. Prime Television in Tamworth has the local news at 6 o'clock every night. Anyone who works in country television will tell you there is an enormous cost to putting local news together. The cameramen and the journalists travel around the community for hundreds of kilometres a day to various towns to do stories and put them together. This legislation makes it easier for television stations like Prime, NBN and WIN to survive financially. I'm quite amazed that those opposite are not supporting this legislation. When you've got Channels Seven, Nine and Ten, Foxtel, Sky, Southern Cross, Prime, NBN and WIN—all the media mobs—supporting it, I can't understand why it's being opposed by the Labor Party and others in this chamber.

I commend my good friend and colleague Senator Bridget McKenzie, who has done so much work on the issue of communications, especially in regional Australia. And I commend Minister Fifield for the great work he's done working with people throughout the coalition to come to a great result.

This legislation removes the reach rule of 75 per cent so that broadcasters can go further than 75 per cent of their audience. It also does away with the two-out-of-three ownership, which means that, if you own a television station and a newspaper in an area, you can't own a radio station as well. It allows people to expand. The reason they're doing that is to allow businesses to survive. I remember when I was a very young fellow in the sixties, we were fortunate to have television in South Australia. We had two television stations, GTS4 at Port Pirie and the ABC from Adelaide. If you turn on free-to-air now, there are many stations: ABC, ABC 1, ABC News 24, 7Mate, Seven, Ten, Nine—you name it. There's probably a selection of 10 to 15 free-to-air stations. Of course, that means that competition for a certain limited market is very tough. Of course, media is one of those industries where the costs continue to go up and up and up—whether it's the cost of employing the people or the cost of the licences. You have such a limited, restricting audience; people just don't flow in the door all the time; and there's only so much advertising that can be carried out. So here is the problem.

The key elements of this package are repealing the 75 per cent audience reach rule. The abolition of the broadcasting licensing fees for television and radio, currently totalling about $130 million a year, will allow broadcasters to better compete with other media platforms. I will give you an example. Prime television may buy programs from Channel 7 and show those programs in Tamworth, for example, through the New England area, but you can't go onto Prime and stream; you have to go to Channel 7. Then of course, Channel 7 in the city gets advertising for that very issue. This will free it up to allow streaming and will make it more competitive. There will be the introduction of a price for the use of spectrum by broadcasters that better reflects its use, a bit like a fuel tax—the more fuel you burn, the more tax you pay. That's fair enough because you're wearing out the roads more et cetera.

It is also protecting Australian children by banning gambling advertising during sports broadcasts in children's viewing hours. I think that's essential, and I'm sure Senator Xenophon would agree with that immensely. There are amendments to the antisiphoning scheme and list, which is simply there to create a level playing field for so many. I'm a big supporter of that level playing field, and I know it's one thing we don't have in the energy industry. It includes a broad-ranging and comprehensive review of Australian and children's content and a $30 million package for subscription television to support the broadcasting of women's and niche sports.

Revenue for radio and television is flat or declining in real terms. As I said, it's a tough game, as online and on-demand services draw audiences away from the traditional broadcast content. This is the new world that we live in. It's not so much that you have to be within the TV reception area—that was basically a monopoly, as it was in the sixties. Where I grew up, in Port Pirie in the mid-north of South Australia, there was one commercial station, GTS4, and the ABC. As I said, the costs are rising and audiences have the greatest choice ever in what they want to watch. The competition is there, big time. We've seen through technology that you can go on your computer and download any movie or watch whatever you want. It is just open slather to view whatever you want to these days. There is so much competition.

Regional radio, as I mentioned—and I talked about radio 2NZ at Inverell—has faced rising challenges. That is why, unfortunately, you see an owner, who may hold several licences around rural and regional areas, elect to run network programs at parts of the day and at weekends to save costs. Let me expand on that: 2NZ at Inverell was owned by farmers out at Moree, along with 2VM, another great radio station at Moree. Along came the buyers, who bought them up, and now 2NZ is one of 50 or 60 radio stations linked with 2SM in Sydney and the satellite is there. The one I know most about is 2NZ, thanks to Greg Kachel. They used to commence at 5.30 in the morning and they would close at midnight. They wouldn't broadcast from midnight through to 5.30 in the morning. That was shut-down time. Of course, now it's a 24-hour station. They can do that because of satellite and networking keeping the costs down. If you wanted to do that in the old days, you would have had to simply employ more radio announcers to be able to keep the doors open and the station broadcasting longer.

With the advent of satellite, a city radio station can send its programs live to many stations in regional areas, and that's what happens. With technology, the announcer in a city station can activate a regional station's commercials and weather, and that's exactly how it happens. Someone sitting in a studio in 2SM in Sydney, when it comes to an advert break, simply presses a button and runs the local adverts at local stations, not the city adverts, and likewise with the local weather. Of course, this obviously saves costs because the owner is paying for one announcer's wages rather than having announcers sitting in studios at all of the regional stations. There's undoubtedly a cost element to this.

Broadcast licence fees for radio and television will be replaced by a spectrum price for television and radio that will be set at a total of around $40 million. The first spectrum payment will be made in 2017-18. Unlike broadcast licence fees, a spectrum fee is not based upon revenue; rather, the price takes account of the type of transmitter used, the amount and type of spectrum used, and its location. This is a similar approach to that which applies to other spectrum users. Overall, the vast majority of broadcasters will pay considerably less in spectrum fees than they currently pay in licence fees. This fee relief will enable broadcasters to better compete with online competitors, invest in their businesses and produce Australian content. In June, in relation to the interim relief of $20 million announced in the 2016-17 budget, Joan Warner, the chief executive officer of the industry body Commercial Radio Australia, said:

We welcome the removal of broadcast licence fees for the 2016-17 financial year. It will allow radio to invest more in Australian jobs and content. However, we continue to call on the parliament to support the total media reform package which provides much needed long-term relief for local Australian radio.

That's what this package is about: long-term relief for local Australian radio. The government hopes to deliver permanent financial relief with this reform package.

In relation to the restriction of gambling advertising, the government has listened to the concerns that regular exposure to gambling advertisements during live sport normalises gambling in the eyes of children and encourages vulnerable persons to gamble, simply promoting it too much. In light of these concerns, the government has decided that existing rules are not meeting community expectations and that additional restrictions are required to provide appropriate community safeguards. It is about those safeguards for the community and not overdoing the advertising of gambling. The new restrictions will prohibit all gambling advertising and promotions from five minutes before the scheduled start of play of all live sporting events to five minutes after the conclusion of the play in the period between 5 am and 8.30 pm. The new restrictions are to be implemented, commencing from March 2018. Importantly, the restrictions will apply to commercial television, commercial radio, subscription television, the Special Broadcasting Service and online services showing live sport aimed at Australian audiences. The new restrictions will establish a clear and practical safe zone on any platform for children watching live sport, which will be straightforward for families to observe. The restrictions will apply to all broadcast gambling promotions, including advertising, in-program promotions of betting markets and odds, and sponsorship announcement.

The government will continue to work with industry to ensure the new restrictions are implemented effectively and in a timely manner. There are some existing restrictions in place that will reassure viewers who are worried that they will be saturated with gambling advertisements after this time. Appendix 3 of the Commercial Television Industry Code Of Practice already restricts when betting advertisements or the promotion of odds are permitted. For example, during a live sporting event, gambling advertisements may only be shown at designated times, such as before and after play and during scheduled and unscheduled breaks in play. The promotion of odds is not permitted during play, scheduled breaks or in unscheduled breaks during a live sport event. That is what this package is about: protecting the young from gambling—and not only the young but also the elderly, who may, unfortunately, have a gambling problem.

In regard to amending the antisiphoning scheme and list, the government supports the principle that nationally significant sporting events should be available on free-to-air television—that is most important. We all want to watch the Sydney Swans take out the AFL grand final this year, or even, in two weeks time, when they beat the Adelaide Crows—wouldn't you agree, Senator O'Neill? Are there no South Australians here? Yes, Senator Hanson-Young is here. The government is taking action to modernise the antisiphoning scheme. This includes updating the list of events to remove a modest number of events that no long warrant inclusion on the list. Most of these events coming off the list are those which are no longer broadcast on free-to-air, garner small audiences or where the relationship to Australia is remote or non-existent—for example, the FA Cup final and the US Masters golf. Iconic events like the Olympics, the Commonwealth Games, all AFL and NRL Premiership matches, including finals, the Australian Open tennis and the Melbourne Cup will remain on the list—and so they should. These changes will enable greater competition between subscription broadcasters and free-to-air television, while retaining significant cultural or sporting events on the list to ensure they remain widely available for Australian audiences. Importantly, this does not mean that these events will necessarily end up on pay TV. There are currently events that are broadcast on free-to-air TV that are not and have never been on the antisiphoning list.

I want to say something about funding for under-represented sports on pay TV. This is very important. The government is providing $7.5 million per annum in funding over four years to subscription television to increase coverage of sports that receive low or no broadcast exposure—women's sports, niche sports and sports that command high levels of community involvement and participation. Women's sports, in particular, remain substantially under-represented in terms of overall coverage and news reporting relative to male sports. In 2013, dedicated television coverage of women in sport made up only seven per cent of all sports coverage. This package includes a promotion of women's sport. It is fair. It is reasonable. It looks after our children. It looks after the gambling issue as far as advertising goes. Most importantly, it provides a mechanism for those many battling media organisations, whether that they be local radio, local newspapers or regional television, to financially survive. We cannot see those great Prime, NBN and WIN television networks go under. That would be a huge loss to our community. I commend the bill to the Senate.

7:16 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Over the past few months, since the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017 was brought forward to be introduced into the parliament, One Nation has had quite extensive talks with people in the industry, interest groups, media outlets and corporations, and they have stated that they wish to see this bill passed. The two-out-of-three rule and the 75 per cent reach rule need to be changed. It's very important to people. The media has changed. TV was first introduced in Australia around the 1950s, and it has changed quite considerably over the period of time since then. We must move with the changes that have happened. As has been stated in the chamber by other speakers, we are seeing that the internet has made a big impact on media. The money that media organisations were making is now taken by internet sales, so the current situation is not reflective of what is happening in newspapers and television.

This bill is very important to a lot of people. We're hearing that a lot of media outlets are shutting down and journalists are losing their jobs. This needs to be addressed. It concerns me that those on the other side of the chamber, the Labor Party, agree with the two-out-of-three rule and are supportive of it, and yet they won't work towards helping media organisations that are struggling and people who are losing their jobs with regard to this. As I said, we have had extensive talks with the government. What we have brought to their attention, I think, will make a big difference with some of the organisations. What we've raised before is to do with the ABC and community radio, which needs a helping hand. It is struggling. People in rural and regional areas need assistance as well. One Nation will be raising the issues in my further discussions on the floor of parliament with regard to this bill.

I have a grave concern with the American company CBS buying up Channel 10, if that be the case. Foreign ownership of our media is of grave concern to me. I will talk further about that later on. Information on the remuneration packages of ABC presenters over $200,000 needs to be made available to all Australians, because the taxpayers are paying for this. We will also be addressing the $12 million going into community radio stations over the next four years.

Debate interrupted.