Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill 2020

As Regional Communications Minister, I was pleased to this week speak on the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Regional Commercial Radio and Other Measures) Bill 2020.

The bill will support the ongoing sustainability of regional radio and TV broadcasters by providing them with greater flexibility and certainty in delivering their services.

Importantly, it will help to ensure continued media diversity and choice for regional Australians.

The bill will amend the local content framework for commercial radio licensees, to reduce the regulatory burden on regional licensees. It will also amend the Australian content multichannel quota so that regional commercial television licensees are not left in the position of failing to satisfy their regulatory requirements due to programming decisions beyond their control.

It amends a number of provisions within the local content framework for regional and commercial radio licensees, providing licensees with a greater flexibility in complying with the framework. These amendments are relevant to the material of local significance and the minimum service standard obligations.

Additionally, the bill will amend the local content exemption period provisions and increases the flexibility of the local content exemption period by allowing licensees to split their exemption period to cover multiple holiday periods.

By allowing licensees to self-nominate their own exemption periods, this amendment will make the exemption period more efficient for licensees, as well as reducing the regulatory burden associated with the local content exemption period provisions.

The bill will also remove public holidays from the minimum service standard obligation.

Material that must be broadcast under the minimum service standards can also be used to acquit the material of local significance obligation. However, licensees are not required to broadcast material of local significance on public holidays. Therefore, the bill seeks to better align the two obligations by removing the requirement to broadcast the minimum service standards on public holidays.

The bill will also remove the requirement for licensees to publish local content plans, which detail how licensees propose to meet the minimum service standards. Local content plans place a significant regulatory burden on licensees, but often provide minimal support for increased levels of local content in regional areas.

Therefore, the bill will propose that licensees instead use the local content statement that they must develop under the material of local significance requirement. Local content statements are more streamlined than local content plans, and this change will significantly reduce the burden under the local content framework.

It will also remove the statutory review provision for the local content framework. The statutory review is considered to be unnecessary, given the ongoing focus on the local content framework on a routine basis.

In the area of regional and remote commercial television licences, the bill proposes to insert a deeming provision with the effect that licensees are deemed to have complied with the multichannel obligation.

This deeming provision will only apply if licensees broadcast the same amount of Australian content on each multichannel they carry as their metropolitan affiliate has broadcast.

It takes account of the current realities of delivering multichannel content in regional and remote Australia, noting that it is becoming more commercially unsustainable for regional and remote licensees to carry the full suite of multi-channels.

In addition, it provides an important reduction in the regulatory burden for regional commercial radio licensees and regional and remote commercial television licensees. It will amend the local content framework to make regulatory compliance easier for licensees.

ENDS

Media Contact:

Minister Coulton – Steph Nicholls – 0417 314 920