Bills Digest 137 1996-97 Broadcasting Services Legislation Amendment Bill 1997


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WARNING:
This Digest was prepared for debate. It reflects the legislation as introduced and does not canvass subsequent amendments. This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.

CONTENTS

Passage History

Broadcasting Services Legislation Amendment Bill 1997

Date Introduced: 19 March 1997
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: Communication and the Arts
Commencement: On the day on which the Act receives the Royal Assent

Purpose

The purpose of the Bill is to make minor consequential amendments to the Broadcasting Services legislation to re-locate provisions concerning annual licence fees for commercial radio and television from the former Broadcasting Services Act 1942 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, and to rectify a small unintended anomaly in the cross-media rules.

Background

The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act) is the cornerstone for regulation of broadcasting throughout Australia.The Act establishes the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) which has the responsibility for planning, licensing and program regulation for the industry.The ABA also monitors the industry by way of research on community attitudes and the investigation of complaints.The Act also contains the cross-media rules and the limitation on foreign control of television.

The cross-media rules involve considerations of concentrations in the media and the need for diversity of views and opinions in a free and democratic society.The cross-media rules are complex but, basically, they prevent a person who controls a television licence from also controlling a newspaper associated with the television licence area.Similarly, the cross-media rules prevent a person who controls a radio licence from also controlling a newspaper associated with the same licence area as the radio licence.For newspapers, the association within the broadcast licence area is relevant when at least 50% of the circulation of the newspaper is within the licence area

The cross-media rules have created an unintended consequence in that the rules do not differentiate between major metropolitan daily newspapers and small-run local newspapers.The problem has been highlighted in cities such as Brisbane where the broadcast of a major radio station is also received in the nearby City of Ipswich which has a local daily newspaper as well as the major metropolitan dailies.Common ownership of the radio station and the local newspaper is a problem under the existing cross-media rules even though the population covered in the newspaper circulation may not be significant.A practical but ad hoc solution to the problem has been to artificially reduce the impact of the circulation by the distribution of some free copies of the local daily. (1)

The Bill addresses this problem by adding to the cross-media provision on newspaper circulation (50% within the licence area) another criterion that the circulation must also cover at least 2% of the licence area population.

The Bill is part of a package which also includes the Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1997 and the Radio Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1997 which apply a requirement for the payment of annual commercialbroadcast licences, respectively.

Main Provisions

Note: The provisions in the Bill are implemented by way of Schedules to the Bill.The terminology used will therefore be Items in the Schedule and not Clauses in the Bill.

Schedule 1

Item 2 is the key provision in the Bill.It adds to the criterion in section 59 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 which determines that a newspaper is associated with the holder of a commercial radio broadcasting licence if 50% of the circulation of the newspaper is in the broadcasting licence area, the additional criterion that the circulation of the newspaper must also involve at least 2% of the population in the licence area.If the two criteria are applicable then common ownership of the radio broadcasting licence and control of the newspaper is proscribed under the cross-media rules.The cross-media rule is being modified so that small local newspapers are not treated as if they were an influential metropolitan daily newspaper.

Where a newspaper is 'associated' with a commercial radio broadcasting licence area, the name of the newspaper must be entered into the Associated Newspaper Register by the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

The additional criterion does not apply to commercial television broadcasting because of the larger market coverage of television, particularly in regional licence areas.

Item 3 amends the table of persons who may apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal concerning a decision by the ABA to enter the name of a newspaper on the Associated Newspaper Register to allow an appeal by a licensee of a commercial radio station.Previously, the right of appeal was confined to a television licensee or the publisher of a newspaper.

Item 5 inserts a new Part 14A - Accounts and payment of licence fees in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.This new part simply provides the administrative arrangements for the application, payment and penalties for non-payment of licence fees imposed under the separate taxing statutes, the Television Licence Fees Act and the Radio Licence Fees Act.

Schedule 2

Item 1 in this Schedule repeals spent provisions from the Broadcasting Services (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 1922 (Transitional Provisions Act) which dealt with the option to convert certain AM commercial radio licences to FM commercial radio licences.The Item also repeals section 22 (Licence Fees) of the Transitional Provisions Act as a consequence of the inclusion of proposed licence fee provisions in this new legislative package of Bills.

Concluding Comments

There is another view to the justification for this minor amendment to the cross-media rules as expressed in the Background, above.In a letter to the Editor of the Australian Financial Review, under the heading 'No such thing as a non-controversial media amendment', (2) Sue Ferguson of the Communications Law Centre in Sydney queries the timing of this proposed amendment given the current debate over cross-media rules.Ms Ferguson suggests that it may be more appropriate to allow such proposed amendments to be consider in the context of a wider public inquiry into the cross-media rules.

Endnotes

  1. See Second Reading debate in the House of Representatives on the Broadcasting Service Legislation Amendment Bill 1997, especially that of Hon Michael Lee, Member for Dobell Hansard, House of Representatives, 14 May 1997: 3542.
  2. Ferguson, S. 'No such thing as a non-controversial media amendment', Letters to the Editor Australian Financial Review, 15 May 1997.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Brendan Bailey
23 May 1997
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine whether the Bill has been enacted and, if so, whether the subsequent Act reflects further amendments.

IRS staff are available to discuss the paper's contents with Senators and Members and their staff but not with members of the public.

ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1997

Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.

Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1997.

This page was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth of Australia
Last updated: 23 May 1997


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