Chapter 1 - Introduction
On 16 April 1999, the Minister for
Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the Minister for
Foreign Affairs issued a joint media statement announcing the Government’s
intention to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to include a new
licence category for international broadcasting services transmitted from
Australia. The Ministers pointed out that under present legislation, the
content of international broadcasting services was unregulated. Concerned about
this situation, they stated:
...any broadcaster with the appropriate transmitter licence and
use of an international shortwave facility may transmit from Australia
regardless of the impact these broadcasts may have on Australia’s national
The Ministers expected ‘significant growth’ in
international broadcasting and could foresee Australia as a likely base for
some services broadcasting to the region.
The announcement explained that under the
Government’s proposal, existing and prospective international broadcasting
services would require a content licence from the Australian Broadcasting
Authority (ABA) in addition to a transmitter licence from the Australian
Communications Authority (ACA). To safeguard Australia’s national interest, the
Government proposed that the ABA would refer applications to the Minister for
Foreign Affairs to make an assessment of whether the prospective international
service was contrary to national interest. That assessment was to consider the
likely effect of the service on Australia’s international relations.
Legislation, which proposed to introduce this
new licensing regime for international broadcasting services transmitted from
Australia, was originally contained in Schedule 3 of the Broadcasting Services
Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1999, introduced into the House of Representatives on 6
December 1999. The Opposition raised concerns about Schedule 3 in the Bill,
particularly the powers to be vested in the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It
suggested that this matter warranted ‘substantive, serious and considered
On 7 December, in response to these concerns, a Government amendment to remove
Schedule 3 from the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1999 was
passed in the House of Representatives. To allow the Parliament more time to
consider the measures in that Schedule, the Government announced its intention
to reintroduce Schedule 3 into the House of Representatives as a separate bill. The substance of Schedule 3
became the Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill (No.4) 1999.
The Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill (No. 4)
1999 (the Bill) was introduced into the House of Representatives on 9 December
1999. In its 1st report of 2000, the Selection of Bills Committee
recommended that the provisions of the Bill be referred to the Senate Foreign
Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee to consider concerns raised by
the Opposition which centred on the powers conferred through the Bill on the
Minister for Foreign Affairs. On 16 February 2000, the Senate referred the Bill
to this Committee for report by 4 April 2000.
The inquiry was advertised in the Weekend
Australian on Saturday, 19 February and in the Northern Territory News
on Monday, 21 February 2000. In addition, the Committee approached a number of
individuals and organisations interested in international broadcasting
services, drawing their attention to the inquiry and inviting submissions on
the Bill. A nominal closing date of 6 March 2000 was set down for receipt of
submissions. The Committee received nine submissions. The submissions together
with additional information are listed in Appendix 1.
Hearing and evidence
The Committee held public hearings on this
inquiry in Parliament House, Canberra on 16 March 2000, at which representatives
of seven organisations gave evidence. Representatives of four organisations,
which were located in London and Sydney, presented evidence via teleconferencing.
Witnesses who presented evidence before the Committee are listed in Appendix 2.
The Committee is grateful to, and wishes to
thank all individuals, organisations and government departments that assisted
with its inquiry.
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