Bills Digest no. 90 2007–08
Communications Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous
Measures) Bill 2008
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Communications Legislation Amendment
(Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2008
Portfolio: Broadband, Communications and the
Sections 1-3 commence on
the day on which the Bill receives the Royal Assent and
schedule 1 commences on the following day.
relevant links to the Bill, Explanatory Memorandum and second
reading speech can be accessed via BillsNet, which is at http://www.aph.gov.au/bills/.
When Bills have been passed they can be found at ComLaw, which is
To amend the Broadcasting
Services Act 1992 (the Broadcasting Services Act) to give the
Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) the
discretion to consider late applications for renewals of community
broadcasting licences, up to the expiry date of the licence.
The Communications Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous
Measures) Bill 2007 (the 2007 Bill) was introduced into the
41st Parliament on 13 September 2007. According to the
Paper debate on the 2007 Bill was adjourned on the same
No further debate occurred and the 2007 Bill had not been passed
when the Parliament was prorogued on 15 October 2007. As a result,
the 2007 Bill lapsed.
The 2007 Bill had two parts. This Bill is different from the
2007 Bill in that the second part of the 2007 Bill has been
Part 6 of the Broadcasting Services Act provides for the
allocation and renewal of community broadcasting licences.
As at December 2006, there was a total of 358 current community
radio broadcasting licences in Australia. There were also
approximately 80 remote indigenous broadcasters and 36 current
temporary community broadcasting licences.
In deciding whether to renew a community broadcasting licence
the ACMA must take into account all those matters which are
relevant to an original grant of such a licence including:
- the extent to which the proposed service would meet the
existing and perceived future needs of the community within the
- the nature and diversity of the interest of that community
- the nature and diversity of other broadcasting services
available within the licence area
- the capacity of the licensee to continue providing the subject
- the undesirability of one person being in a position to
exercise control of more than one community broadcasting licence in
the same licence area, and
- the undesirability of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory
or a political party being in a position to exercise control of a
community broadcasting licence.
The ACMA currently has no discretion to consider late
applications for the renewal of community broadcasting licences,
regardless of the circumstances giving rise to the application.
According to the Explanatory Memorandum some community
broadcasting licensees have lodged renewal applications up to three
months late. While
most community broadcasters have adequate administrative processes
in place to ensure that their licence renewal applications are
submitted within time, others operate without paid staff and have
little administrative support. Consequently a good community broadcasting
licensee, providing a valuable public service, could lose its
licence as a result of making a late application even in
circumstances where the licensee can show good reasons as to why
the application is late.
The Bill is intended to remedy this situation.
The Explanatory Memorandum states that there is no financial
impact on the Commonwealth.
Existing subsection 90(1) of the Broadcasting
Services Act provides that the ACMA may renew a community
broadcasting licence if the licensee makes an application for
renewal by submitting the approved form. According to their
website, the ACMA writes to existing community broadcasting
licensees approximately 58 weeks before the expiry of their licence
to request that they submit an application to renew it no later 52
weeks before the expiry of the licence.
Existing subsection 90(1A) sets out the general rule that a
licensee must apply for the renewal of the licence
within the following times:
Under subsection 91(3) the ACMA is not required to conduct an
investigation or a hearing into whether a licence should be
renewed. However it does take into consideration written
submissions from the public in making its decision and may require
clarification from the licensee of certain matters before making
its decision. This is the reason for the lengthy timeframe.
Item 2 of the Bill amends existing subsection
90(1A) so that the general rule regarding renewals is subject to
proposed subsection 90(1C) which allows the
submission to the ACMA of late applications by licensees in certain
Item 3 of the Bill inserts proposed
subsections 90(1C) to (1F).
Proposed subsection 90(1C) authorises the ACMA
to consider a late application for renewal if all
the following conditions are satisfied:
- the licensee makes the application before the time when the
licence is due to expire and
- the application is accompanied by a written statement setting
out the reasons for the late lodgement of the application and
- the ACMA considers that there are exceptional circumstances
that warrant consideration of the application.
Proposed subsection 90(1D) provides that in
deciding whether exceptional circumstances exist, the ACMA
must take into account all of the following
- how late the application is
- the reasons given by the licensee for the late lodgement of the
- the number of paid staff employed by the licensee, and
- any other matters which ACMA thinks are relevant.
Where the ACMA decides that it will consider a late application,
and has not made a decision on the application by the date that the
licence is due to expire, proposed subsection
90(1E) provides that the licence will remain in force
until the ACMA has made its decision.
Where the ACMA decides that it will consider a late application,
and has not made a decision on the application within 26 weeks of
receiving it, the ACMA is taken to have made a decision to refuse
to renew the licence at the end of the 26 week period:
proposed subsection 90(1F).
Existing subsection 91(1) allows the ACMA to renew a community
broadcasting licence for a period of five years. Item
4 of the Bill amends subsection 91(1) to grant a licence
for a shorter period in circumstances where the application to
renew an existing licence has been lodged late.
- the ACMA renews a licence after its expiry date, and
- under proposed subsection 90(1E) the licence remained in force
until the ACMA made a decision on the application
then proposed paragraph 91(1)(a)
will require the ACMA to renew the licence beginning on the date
that the ACMA made its decision to renew the licence, and ending on
the date which is five years after the expiry date.
Under proposed paragraph
91(1)(b) the ACMA may renew all other licences for a
period of five years beginning immediately after their expiry
Item 5 of the Bill provides that these
amendments to sections 90 and 91 of the Broadcasting Act apply to
an application for renewal which is made after the commencement of
the relevant item, that is, the date on which the Act receives
19 March 2008
Bills Digest Service
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