Bills Digest No. 22 1999-2000 Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1999

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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.


Passage History
Main Provisions
Contact Officer & Copyright Details

Passage History

Television Licence Fees Amendment Bill 1999

Date Introduced: 30 June 1999

House: House of Representatives

Portfolio: Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Commencement: Royal Assent


To impose additional licence fees on commercial television broadcasters to help meet the costs of the Australian Broadcasting Authority relating to the conversion of television broadcasting from analog to digital transmission.


Under the provisions of the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act 1998 national and commercial television services will convert from analog to digital transmission from 1 January 2001. The Act requires the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) to develop conversion schemes and to approve implementation plans for each commercial and national broadcaster.

In the 1999-2000 Budget it was announced that the costs associated with this activity would be recovered from industry.(1) This Bill will give effect to that decision. The total amount involved is $1.21 million in both 1999-00 and 2000-01 and $0.99 million in 2001-02.

The costs will be recovered from commercial television broadcasters by imposing an additional fee on each commercial broadcaster in 1999, 2000 and 2001. The total cost will be distributed amongst commercial television licensees on the basis of the ratio between each licensee's fee and the total of licensees' fees for the preceding year. For example, if a licensee's fee was equivalent to 3 per cent of the total revenue from all licence fees in 1998, then it will pay 3 per cent of $1.21 million in additional fees in 1999.

Under the Television Licence Fees Act 1964 commercial television licensees pay a fee on the 31 December of each year that is derived from the gross earnings of the licensee for the previous financial year. In 1997-98 commercial television licensees paid a total of $194.5 million in licence fees. The temporary surcharge imposed by this Bill thus represents an increase of 0.6 per cent on total licence fees.

The Government decided that a comprehensive cost recovery scheme including the ABC and SBS was not worth implementing, as the contributions required from these Commonwealth Government funded organisations would have to be met from additional budget appropriations.(2) While national and community broadcasters will also benefit from the ABA's activities funded by the additional payments from the commercial licensees, the extent of this cross-subsidy will be diminished by the fee-for-service arrangements for digital broadcasting contained in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA). Clause 61 of Schedule 4 of the BSA permits the ABA to charge the national and commercial broadcasters for expenses incurred under the digital conversion schemes. While the national broadcasters will continue to be subject to such charges, the commercial broadcasters will be exempt for the period covered by the payment of the additional fees imposed by this Bill. This exemption is the subject of the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill (No.2) 1999.

Main Provisions

Item 2 of Schedule 1 inserts a new section 6B in the Television Licence Fees Act 1964.

New subsection 6B(1) provides that each licensee will pay a fee on 31 December 1999 equivalent to:

  • $1,210,000 multiplied by the licensee's 1998 fee divided by the total of all licensees' 1998 fees.

New subsection 6B(2) provides that each licensee will pay a fee on 31 December 2000 equivalent to:

  • $1,210,000 multiplied by the licensee's 1999 fee divided by the total of all licensees' 1999 fees.

New subsection 6B(3) provides that each licensee will pay a fee on 31 December 2001 equivalent to:

  • $990,000 multiplied by the licensee's 2000 fee divided by the total of all licensees' 2000 fees.


  1. Budget Measures 1999-2000 (Budget Paper No.2), pp 57-8.

  2. Explanatory Memorandum, p 5.

Contact Officer and Copyright Details

Kim Jackson
9 August 1999
Bills Digest Service
Information and Research Services

This paper has been prepared for general distribution to Senators and Members of the Australian Parliament. While great care is taken to ensure that the paper is accurate and balanced, the paper is written using information publicly available at the time of production. The views expressed are those of the author and should not be attributed to the Information and Research Services (IRS). Advice on legislation or legal policy issues contained in this paper is provided for use in parliamentary debate and for related parliamentary purposes. This paper is not professional legal opinion. Readers are reminded that the paper is not an official parliamentary or Australian government document.

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ISSN 1328-8091
© Commonwealth of Australia 1999

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Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1999.

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