Bills Digest No. 179  1999-2000Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television and Datacasting) Bill 2000


Numerical Index | Alphabetical Index

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
Purpose
Background
Main Provisions
Concluding Comments
Endnotes
Contact Officer & Copyright Details

Passage History

Broadcasting Services Amendment (Digital Television and Datacasting) Bill 2000

Date Introduced: 10 May 2000

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Commencement: The principal amendments commence on proclamation or six months and one day after Royal Assent. The following provisions however commence on Royal Assent: Item 75 which inserts a new definition of designated teletext service; Item 137 which amends a requirement for the Australian Communications Authority to provide a report on the principles for determining the datacasting charge; and Items 142 and 143 which are transitional provisions dealing with digital conversion schemes and the allocation of datacasting licences.

Purpose

This Bill will amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to:

  • refine arrangements for the introduction of digital television, and
  • establish a system for the regulation of datacasting services.

Background

Previous Legislation and Reviews

The conversion to digital broadcasting required amendments to both the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) and the Radiocommunications Act 1992. The former sets out the ownership and programming conditions for broadcasting licences and is administered by the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA). The latter regulates the usage of the spectrum, including the licensing of transmitting apparatus, and is administered by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA).These amendments were contained in the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act 1998 ("the Digital Conversion Act"), which provides the legislative basis for the scheme. The Act instructed the ABA to formulate digital conversion schemes for commercial and national broadcasters in accordance with the policy objectives described in the legislation.

The Digital Conversion Act was accompanied by related revenue legislation, the Datacasting Charge (Imposition) Act 1998. Datacasting is defined in the Digital Conversion Act as a service (other than a broadcasting service) that delivers information to persons having equipment appropriate for receiving that information, where the delivery of the service uses the broadcasting services bands.

This broad definition was required because the market for datacasting does not yet exist and the precise nature of these services is unknown. Because of these and other uncertainties, the Digital Conversion Act also required the Minister to have reviews conducted in the following areas to see if amendments to the legislation were required:

  • enhanced programming
  • the scope of datacasting services
  • multi-channelling by the national broadcasters (ABC and SBS)
  • retransmission of free-to-Air digital broadcasting services on pay TV systems
  • underserved regional licence areas
  • convergence of broadcasting and non-broadcasting technologies
  • high definition television standards
  • captioning standards, and
  • the regulatory arrangements that should apply to the allocation of spectrum in the broadcasting services bands for use for the provision of datacasting services. (1)

Policy Decisions

The reviews listed above informed the policy decisions announced by the Government in the December 21 1999 policy statement.(2) These decisions were as follows:

  • free to air broadcasters will be required to provide a standard definition digital television (SDTV) signal at all times and to provide at least 20 hours per week of high definition digital broadcasts (HDTV)
  • datacasting will be subject to restrictions to ensure that it is different from current television services. Datacasters will be able to provide information programs where the dominant purpose is to provide information on products, services and activities; interactive home shopping, banking and bill paying; web pages; e-mail services; education services and interactive games. In certain circumstances they will also be able to provide ten minute headline bulletins in the areas of news, weather and financial/business information. However, datacasters will be prevented from showing drama, current affairs programs, sporting programs and events, music programs, infotainment and lifestyle programs, comedy programs, documentaries, reality television programs, children's programs, light entertainment and variety programs, compilation programs, quiz programs and game shows, and
  • the Government will allow the free to air broadcasters to provide digital enhancements to their main simulcast programs, provided they are directly linked to, and contemporaneous with, the main program and do not amount to a separate multi-channel program.

The December Policy Statement also foreshadowed that further decisions would be made in such areas as captioning requirements, assistance to regional broadcasters, the role of community television and the multi-channelling requirements of the ABC and SBS. Some of these matters are covered in the current legislative package. The major decisions are:

  • the ABC and SBS will be subject to the same limitations on multi-channelling as the commercial broadcasters
  • free-to-air broadcasters will be required to caption all prime time programs and all news and current affairs programs (apart from non-English and music programs)
  • commercial broadcasters in underserved regional markets (ie. those with only one or two commercial services) will be exempted from HDTV requirements and will be able to multi-channel additional services, and
  • the datacasting licensing regime will be introduced. This will be administered by the ABA with conditions similar to those for pay TV licences, including industry Codes of Practice, a mechanism for complaints to the ABA, and remedies for breaches of licensing provisions. The datacasting licence regime will also apply to the ABC and SBS. The Minister will be required to review the regime before 1 January 2004 and to present the report to Parliament.

Related Budget Measures

The Budget of 9 May 2000 contained a number of related measures. The Government will assist regional commercial television broadcasters to convert to digital broadcasting by providing up to $260 million over 13 years, largely in the form of licence fee rebates. Additional funding was also made available for the ABC and SBS for digital conversion: $66.2 million for capital equipment as well as an unstated sum for operating expenses. The latter amount was not published to ensure the best possible outcome in the tendering for transmission and distribution contracts.

The budget appropriation for the ABC for 2000-01 was $621.059 million, compared with $599.158 million for 1999-2000. The appropriation for the SBS was $116.191 million ($111.886 million in 1999-2000). It has been reported that the ABC's budget submission sought an additional $194 million to use its digital capacity for a second channel and datacasting.(3)

Major Issues

Mandatory HDTV Provisions

The requirement for HDTV transmission was presented by the Government, and accepted by the industry, as a quid pro quo for the allocation of free spectrum to the existing broadcasters. However, concerns have since been expressed that the mandatory 20 hour per week transmission of a high definition service "involves a substantial policy risk".(4) This was the view of the Productivity Commission, which released the final report of its inquiry into broadcasting policy in March 2000.(5)

The Commission states that HDTV television sets will cost at least $8000 and that HDTV will be a "premium service for a small number of viewers"(6). However, the costs of HDTV production, distribution and transmission will be borne by all broadcasters, advertisers and ultimately the community as a whole. In other words, a mandatory HDTV requirement entails a subsidy of the well-off (who can afford the service) by those of less means (who cannot). The Commission also notes that the mandatory HDTV policy may constrain the emergence of new services, prolong the conversion process and may have effects at cross-purposes to the Australian content quotas. Australia is the only country to mandate HDTV, and is also the only country currently planning to use the DVB system for this purpose. These unique requirements could have an impact on the cost and availability of equipment.

The Productivity Commission recommended that a new regulatory framework would facilitate consumers' adoption of digital television and, in particular, that:

  • HDTV should not be mandated but should be left to the market
  • datacasting services should be defined as digital broadcasting services, and
  • multi-channelling by the commercial and national broadcasters should be permitted.

Enhanced Programming and Multi-channelling

The Government rejected the ABC's submission for multi-channelling in part because it would provide unfair competition for pay television . However, the definition of enhanced programming contained in the Bill permits both commercial and national free-to-air broadcasters to effectively multi-channel sporting events if it involves the same sport at the same venue with overlapping times. For example, it would be possible to broadcast more than one match at a time from a tennis tournament. Pay TV operators have expressed concern with these provisions.

It should be noted that the commercial free-to-air television broadcasters are already protected from competition from the pay TV sector with regard to major sporting events through the anti-siphoning provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act. Events on the anti-siphoning list which would be suitable for multi-channelling under the provisions of the Bill include:

  • Wimbledon and the Australian, French and US Open tennis tournaments
  • The Australian Men's and Women's Hardcourt, and the NSW Open tennis championships, and
  • The Australian and US Masters and the Australian, US and British Open, and the US PGA golf tournaments.

Datacasting Restrictions

Pay TV operators and other potential datacasters have argued that the restrictions on datacasting are too severe in that they will prevent the introduction of new digital services. On the other hand, the commercial free-to-air television networks have asserted that the provisions will allow datacasters to deliver a de facto television service by allowing Internet services to be linked to digital television.(7) The Productivity Commission's report supports the former view. It states that the policy 'places considerable and arbitrary limitations on the innovative, interactive and additional services made possible by the technology of digital transmission'.(8) It points to a number of anomalies, such as:

  • While free-to-air broadcasters are required to show children's programs for social and cultural reasons, datacasters are prohibited from doing so
  • Datacasters can show news and parliamentary proceedings, but not current affairs, and
  • Datacasters will be prevented from showing documentaries, but not educational programs, when the two categories are sometimes indistinguishable.

Members and Senators can readily test the truth of the claim that the Bill will allow datacasters to provide a de facto television service by comparing the 'webcast' coverage of parliamentary proceedings on their computer screens with the identical images available on the parliamentary television network.(9)

Main Provisions

Digital Television

Schedule 4 of the BSA sets out the conditions for the digital television broadcasting. This Schedule is amended by the Bill to reflect the policy decision made by the Government outlined above.

The terms 'HDTV digital mode' (HDTV) and 'SDTV digital mode' (SDTV) are defined generically in proposed clauses 4A and 4B respectively. However the technical requirements of each mode of broadcasting are not set out in the Bill. According to the Explanatory Memorandum.

These terms are well understood in the television broadcasting industry, and it is expected they will be given their normal industry meaning.(10)

HDTV Quotas

Proposed clause 37E provides that in non-remote(11) areas the regulations must determine standards which require each commercial television broadcasting licensee to transmit in SDTV and HDTV and meet specified quota of HDTV programs.(12)

Proposed subclause 37E(2) provides that standards must be directed towards ensuring that:

  • HDTV broadcasting begins as soon as possible but in any event within 2 years, after the licensee begins to broadcast in SDTV; and that
  • Within two years licensees are transmitting at least 20 hours per week in HDTV.

Under proposed subclause 37(3) regulations may also be made which determine a HDTV quota for 'prime viewing hours', that is between 6pm and 10.30 pm (proposed clause 37M).

The national broadcasters are subject to similar HDTV quotas under proposed clause 37F. Significantly, however the ABC and SBS are able to transmit a less stringent type of HDTV program.

Proposed clause 37L defines 'high-definition television programs' for the purposes of determining HDTV quotas. A different definition applies depending upon whether it relates to a commercial television broadcaster, the ABC (before or after 1 January 2006) or the SBS.

For commercial broadcasters and the ABC after 1 January 2006, a high-definition television program is a program that was originally produced in:

  • high-definition digital video format, or
  • a non-video format (eg 16mm or 35mm film) and subsequently converted to high-definition digital video, provided that the conversion has not resulted in a significant reduction in picture quality (proposed subclause 37L(1)).

This type of program is described in the Explanatory Memorandum as a 'true HDTV program'. (13)

For the SBS and the ABC prior to 2006, the high-definition television program definition additionally includes SDTV programs that have been converted to a high definition digital video format and programs that have been converted from analog video to SDTV and then to a high definition digital video format (proposed subclause 37L(2)).

The difference in definition reflects the fact that a major source of programming for SBS and, to a lesser extent the ABC, is Europe where few 'true' HDTV programs are produced at present.(14)

In non-remote areas, standards made under proposed clause 37F will require the ABC and SBS to transmit 20 hours per week of HDTV by 1 January 2004. In the case of the ABC, until 1 January 2006 at least 4 hours of the 20 hours must be 'true' HDTV programs. After this date all HDTV programs shown by the ABC must satisfy the strict definition in proposed subclause 37L(1). SBS is not required to show any programs which satisfy this strict definition.

In remote areas HDTV quotas will be discretionary (proposed clause 37G). While the regulations must determine standards under proposed clause 37E and 37F in remote areas standards may be determined. According to the Explanatory Memorandum, the decision to impose standards will 'need to take into account the costs and technical feasibility of the provision of HDTV in these areas.(15) HDTV quotas are also discretionary for national broadcasters in remote areas (proposed clause 37H).

Proposed clause 60A requires the Minister to review the regulatory arrangements with respect to HDTV quotas by 2004.

Additional licences for underserved markets

Proposed new section 38B of the BSA will allow the ABA to allocate an additional licence to an existing licensee or licensees who form a joint venture in areas where there are only two commercial television licensees.

The new provision expands upon section 38A which allows the ABA to allocate a licence to an existing licensee in a single-station market. (16)The licence may be allocated to a joint-venture company owned by the existing licensees. In the event that both licensees lodge separate applications for the additional licence, the ABA may determine a price based system for allocating the licence. The Minister may direct the ABA in relation the nature of this system (proposed subsections 38B(10) and 38B(11)).

Any licence allocated under the new section can only beused to transmit digital television. A licensee must begin broadcasting in SDTV by 2004 or at earlier time if the ABA so directs (proposed subsection 38B(18)).

Captioning

Clause 38 of Schedule 4 of the BSA requires the determination of standards for the captioning of television programs for the deaf and hearing impaired. Subclause 38(4) requires that standards should be directed towards the objective of ensuring that the commercial and national broadcasters caption all programs in prime viewing hours (i.e.6 pm-10.30 pm daily) as well as all news and current affairs programs outside that time.

The amendments proposed by item 128 limit the scope of subclause 38(4). Proposed subclause 38(4B) states that standards must not require a captioning services for a program or part of a program:

  • that is wholly in a language other than English, or
  • where the audio component of the program consists only of music that that has no human vocal content that is recognisable as being in the English language.

Program Enhancements

Schedule 2 of the BSA sets out the standard conditions which apply to broadcasting licences. Under paragraph 7(1)(m) a broadcaster must not during the simulcast period(17) broadcast a program in SDTV unless it also broadcasts in analog. Subclause 6(8) of schedule 4 provides for certain exemptions from the simulcast requirement. Item 91 adds to this list of exemptions in order to facilitate 'digital program enhancement content', multi-channelling and electronic program guides. Item 112 inserts a corresponding range of exemptions from the simulcast requirement for the national broadcasters, the ABC and SBS.

Multi-channelling is permitted in limited circumstances by proposed subparagraph 6(8)(d).(18) Firstly, it must involve a program that provides live coverage of a designated event. That is, a sporting event or a event determined by the ABA to be a declared designated event (proposed sub clauses 6(20) and 6(21)). In addition, the completion of the event must be delayed by circumstances beyond the control of the broadcaster or the supplier of the program. As a consequence of that delay, the designated event must run into the time allocated to another scheduled program. Finally, the sole purpose of multi-channelling must be to allow viewers of SDTV broadcasts to choose between viewing the designated event and the scheduled program.

An example of the type of circumstance that would be covered by this exception is where a day's play of test cricket is extended to make up for time lost to rain.(19) In such a situation the broadcaster could, for example, multi-channel the conclusion of the cricket and the news.

There are two types of digital program enhancements that are exempt from the simulcast requirement. 'Category A digital program enhancement content' is defined by proposed clause 6(14) as content in the form of text, data, speech, music, other sounds, visual images or any other form or combination of forms which is closely and directly linked to the subject matter of the primary program and is transmitted for the sole purpose of enhancing that program. A note to the proposed clause states that different camera angles, player statistics and video highlights are examples of category A content.

'Category B digital program enhanced content' is essentially another form of multi-channelling. It refers to a television program that provides live coverage of multiple sporting events of the same sport at the same venue (proposed subclause 6(15)).

It is possible that some confusion may arise because the requirement that an event constitute the same sport. For example, would a track event such as the 100 metres and field event such as the javelin be considered to be part of the same sport, namely, athletics? The Bill does provide a mechanism for resolving such uncertainty. The ABA may make a determination that two or more specified sporting events are taken to involve the same sport (proposed subclause 6(16)).(20)

Datacasting Regime

Item 12 inserts a new broad definition of datacasting service into subsection 6(1) of the BSA. It is service which delivers content in the form of text, data, speech, music, other sounds visual images or in any other form or in any combination of forms to people with appropriate equipment for receiving the content. The service must also be delivered using the broadcasting services bands.

The principal difference between the new definition and the existing definition (which is repealed by item 74) is that the current definition excludes broadcasting services. The Government has come to the view that this distinction is not sustainable in light of the activities that datacasters will be permitted to undertake in the proposed new regime.(21)

Item 140 inserts new schedule 6 which sets up a system for regulating the provision of datacasting services.

Datacasting service providers must hold a licence issued by the ABA. A person who provides a datacasting service without a licence is liable for a penalty of 20,000 penalty units ($2.2 million) per day (proposed clause 49).

Under proposed clause 8 the ABA cannot allocate a datacasting license to an applicant who is not a 'qualified entity' or if subclause 9(1) applies. The term 'qualified entity' is defined in proposed clause 2 as:

  • a company with share capital formed in Australia or an external territory, or
  • the Commonwealth, a State or Territory, or
  • the ABC or SBS, or
  • a body corporate established for a public purpose by Commonwealth, State or Territory Law.

Proposed subclause 9(1) provides that the ABA may determine that granting a particular person a datacasting licensee would lead to a significant risk of an offence against the BSA or the regulations being committed; or a breach of the licence conditions. In deciding this issue the ABA can take into account matters such as the persons business record and the person's record in situations requiring trust and candour.

Although proposed clause 10 permits the transfer of licences between qualified entities, each licence is subject to the condition that the licensee remains suitable (proposed clause 25).

Proposed Part 3 of the Schedule provides for the conditions that attach to datacasting licences. These conditions may are divided into three categories, genre, audio and other.

Genre Conditions

The genre conditions are designed to ensure that datacasting does not look like television and consequently that it will not be used to undermine the requirement for a broadcasting licence.

Proposed clause 14 restricts datacasters from transmitting matter that would, if broadcast on a commercial television broadcasting service be a 'category A television program' or an extract from such a program. This term is defined in proposed clause 13 as:

  • a drama program (defined in section 103B of the Act)
  • a current affairs program (defined in proposed clause 2)
  • a sports program (defined in proposed clause 2)
  • a music program (defined in proposed clause 2)
  • a infotainment or lifestyle program (defined in proposed clause 2)
  • a documentary
  • a 'reality television' program (defined in proposed clause 2)
  • a children's entertainment program
  • a compilation program (defined in proposed clause 2)
  • a quiz or games program
  • a comedy program, and
  • a program that consists of a combination of any or all of the above programs.

The ABA may make a determination that a particular program is or is not a category A television program. Such a determination may be disallowed by a resolution of either House of the Commonwealth Parliament (proposed subclause 13(8)).

'Information-only' and 'educational programs' are specifically excluded from the scope of category A programs. The effect is that datacasters are able to transmit these programs. (proposed subclause 13(3)).

An 'educational program' is defined in proposed clause 3 as matter that has the sole or dominant purpose of assisting a course of study or instruction. It is possible that there may be some confusion between educational programs and documentaries however the ABA is empowered to address this issue by making determinations that particular programs are or are not educational under proposed subclauses 3(3) and 3(4). These determinations are disallowable instruments.

An 'information-only program' are defined in proposed clause 4. The definition lists a range of permissible subject matter including information relating to products, services, community activities and information which allows people to carry out transactions (for example, home shopping or banking). In each case the sole or dominant purpose of the program must be to provide factual information. There must be little or no emphasis on the dramatic impact or entertainment value. As with education programs, the ABA may determine that a particular program is or is not an information-only program. Again, such determinations are disallowable instruments (proposed subclauses 4(3),4(4) and 4(7)).

Proposed clause 14(2) sets out the circumstances in which a datacaster may transmit a category A television program. Extracts of such programs may be transmitted if they:

  • are not longer than 10 minutes; and
  • are not fully self-contained; and
  • are not combined with other programs in a way that constitutes the whole or a majority of a particular category A program; and
  • having regard to the nature and circumstances of the extract the licensee did not intend to combine the extract with other material in a way that would constitute the whole or a majority of a particular category A television program.

Datacasters are also restricted in their ability to broadcast 'category B television programs' or extracts (proposed clause 16). This term is defined in proposed clause 15 as including:

  • a news bulletin (partially defined in proposed clause 2 to include sports news bulletins)
  • a financial, market or business information bulletin; (defined in proposed clause 2)
  • a weather bulletin
  • a bulletin that is a combination of the above.

As with Category A programs, the ABA may determine whether a particular program is a category B program and such determinations are disallowable (proposed subclauses 15(4), 15(5), 15(8)).

The conditions which apply to datacasters under proposed clause 16 vary depending upon whether or not a bulletin is 'presenter based'. Proposed subclause 16(4) provides that presenter based bulletins are comprised of one or more introductory segments spoken by a presenter who is visible on screen and video images.

Proposed subclause 16(2) allows a datacaster to transmit a presenter-based bulletin if it is not longer than 10 minutes. Proposed subparagraph 16(2)(b) prevents datacasters from operating a rolling or continuously updated news, sport, finance or weather service. The content of a later bulletin may not be altered until at least 30 minutes after the start of the first bulletin.

In the event that a bulletin is not presenter based, a datacaster may transmit a bulletin if:

  • the bulletin consists of a single item of news
  • the bulletin is a financial, market or business information bulletin that deals with a single topic, or
  • the bulletin is a weather bulletin.

In any case, the bulletin must only be accessible by an end-user who makes a selection from on-screen menu.

Exceptions to the genre conditions

Proposed clauses 17-20 outline material that is not subject to the genre restrictions imposed by clauses 14 and 16. Datacasters are free to transmit:

  • Parliamentary proceedings or the proceedings of a court, tribunal or Royal Commission (proposed clause 17)
  • material that consists of no more than text or visual images (proposed clause 18)
  • interactive computer games (proposed clause 19), and
  • internet carriage services or electronic mail (proposed clause 20).

Audio Content Condition

Proposed Division 2 imposes an audio content condition to prevent datacasting from becoming a de facto commercial radio broadcasting service. It is a condition of each datacasting licence that the licensee not transmit material that if broadcast on commercial radio it would be a 'designated radio program'. This term is defined in proposed subclause 21(2) as any program other than an information-only program, an education program or a foreign language news bulletin.

As with the genre condition discussed above the ABA may by disallowable instrument determine whether a particular program is a designated radio program (proposed subclauses 21(4), 21(5), and 21(8)).

The audio content conditions do not apply to the transmission of:

  • Parliamentary proceedings or the proceedings of a court, tribunal or Royal Commission (proposed clause 22), and
  • material that consists of no more than text or visual images (proposed clause 23).

Other Conditions

Proposed clause 24 imposes a range of other general conditions on datacasting licences. These conditions largely mirror terms imposed on television and radio broadcasters and include provisions which:

  • regulate the transmission of political material
  • prohibit tobacco advertising, and
  • prohibit the transmission of material classified RC, X or NVE.(22)

To the extent to which datacasters provide an internet carriage service they must also comply with the online provider rules in schedule 5 of the BSA. (proposed paragraph 24(1)(h)).

The ABA may impose additional licence conditions including a condition that a licensee complies with an applicable code of practice (proposed clause 26).

Codes of Practice

The Bill adopts to a co-regulatory approach to regulation. Datacasters are encouraged to develop codes of practice that address the community concerns about datacasting content. If these codes are not developed or are deemed inadequate, the ABA is empowered to develop mandatory standards for the industry (proposed clause 31).

Subclause 28(2) sets out the matters that are to be dealt with by codes of practice. They include:

  • procedures for protecting children from datacasting content which may be harmful
  • advertising in datacasting transmissions, and
  • complaint handling procedures.

Codes must be registered by the ABA if the ABA is satisfied that there has been appropriate consultation in the development of the code, the code provides adequate community safe guards and is supported by the industry (proposed subclause 28(6)). While the ABA is not empowered to enforce compliance with a code of practice per se, it may make standards where codes of practice fail.(23) Standards made by the ABA are disallowable instruments. It is a licence condition that datacasters comply with standards made under proposed clause 31 (proposed paragraph 24(1)(c)).

National Broadcasters

Clauses 39 and 40 permit the ABC and SBS to operate a datacasting service. The national broadcasters will require a licence and will thus be subject to the same conditions as other datacasters.

The datacasting regime imposed by schedule 6 is to be reviewed by 1 January 2004. (proposed clause 61).

Concluding Comments

Despite a lengthy period of public debate, the policy decisions which have determined the regulatory framework that is to govern the new digital environment are still subject to considerable controversy.

A key point of disagreement concerns whether it is necessary to legislate HDTV content requirements. It may be argued that if the HDTV product is so clearly superior to SDTV then the market forces will ensure its adoption.

Another contentious issue is whether the ABC should be able to multi-channel. Through its national network, the ABC clearly has the program content to provide enhanced services to people in rural and regional areas. However enabling the ABC to multi-channel this material would require a significant increase in funding. In addition, if commercial broadcasters were not given similar freedom to multi-channel the Government's commitment to competitive neutrality would be breached. Furthermore, the Pay-TV industry claims that unrestricted multi-channelling would undermine its viability.

Finally, the regulatory framework for datacasting services is extremely restrictive. The incumbent broadcasters argue that unrestricted datacasting could undermine their substantial investment in upgrading their technology to facilitate digital transmission. However it may also be argued that the limitations on datacasting contained in the Bill go too far in addressing this concern and will prevent consumers from accessing the full potential of the digital age.

Endnotes

  1. Copies of the reports are available from the DCITA website at
    http://www.dcita.gov.au/cgi-bin/trap.pl?path=4987
  2. The Minister's Press Release is available at the following DCITA website
    http://www.dcita.gov.au/cgi-bin/trap.pl?path=4717
  3. 'ABC's leap into future finishes before it starts', Sydney Morning Herald, 19 April 2000.

    4 Productivity Commission, Broadcasting Inquiry Report, March, 2000, p. 252

  4. A copy of the report is available at the following website
    http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiry/broadcst/finalreport/index.html
  5. Productivity Commission, Broadcasting Inquiry Report, March, 2000, p. 252.
  6. 'Heavies clash over digital TV', Financial Review, 24 May 2000.
  7. Productivity Commission, Broadcasting Inquiry Report, p. 256.
  8. It should be noted that the parliamentary 'webcast' is delivered through a local area network, which has a greater carrying capacity than the standard modem link to the Internet ie. the 'webcast' will probably be of a better quality than the 'video streaming' that will be available to households via datacasting.
  9. p. 86.
  10. The ABA under Clause 5 of Schedule 4 may determine remote licence areas.
  11. Compliance with these standards will be a licence condition. See Item 69.
  12. p. 101
  13. ibid
  14. p. 100.
  15. A licence may not be allocated under proposed section 38B if one of the licences in the area was allocated under section 38A.
  16. The simulcast period is defined in clause 2 of Schedule 4. In case of commercial broadcasters in non-remote areas the simulcast period runs from January 1 2001 until January 1 2009.
  17. Licensees who have been granted an additional license under section 38A or proposed section 38B (ie those in underserved markets) will also be able to multi-channel existing and new services in digital mode (proposed subclause 6(5A)).
  18. Explanatory Memorandum, p. 89.
  19. Such determinations are disallowable instruments.
  20. Explanatory Memorandum. p. 71.
  21. The reference to the NVE is redundant as the Government has announced that it will not proceed with plans to replace the X category with NVE. See The Hon John Anderson, 'Nationals Back the Dumping of Non Violent Erotica Classification', Press Release, 30 May 2000.
  22. In addition, as mentioned above, the ABA may make compliance with a Code of Practice a licence condition.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Mark Tapley and Kim Jackson
9 June 2000
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

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ISSN 1328-8091
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