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Second Reading Speech: Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017
Australia's media industry is under sustained and significant pressure as digital technologies upend established business models and intensify competition for audiences and revenue. Last year, the government secured passage of legislation that will enable Australia's media companies to deal with these challenges and better compete in what is now a global media environment.
The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017 implements two measures developed as part of the government's broadcasting and content reform package. The first is the establishment of a register of foreign ownership of media assets to be overseen and administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The register will enhance the transparency of foreign investment in Australian media companies and the levels and sources of such investment. The second measure relates to applications for community radio broadcasting licences. The bill will introduce the new local content criteria that the Australian Communications and Media Authority can consider in assessing such applications, giving applicants the opportunity and incentive to deliver more localised content.
The government also intends to move an amendment sheet to add a third schedule to the bill. The third schedule amends the local content obligations that will apply to regional commercial television broadcasting licensees following a relevant change in ownership, known as a 'trigger event'. The amendment addresses an anomaly arising from the application of the regional local programming requirements to a specific licensee in regional Western Australia. For historical reasons, the licensing arrangements for the two commercial television broadcasting licensees in regional and remote Western Australia—GWN7 and WIN—differ significantly from ordinary practice.
Although they broadcast to a geographic area of an equivalent size, GWN7 presently holds four licences—three of which are subject to additional local programming obligations—while WIN only holds one. The unconventional licensing arrangements means that GWN7 would be subject to three times the local content obligations than WIN would face if WIN's sole commercial television broadcasting licence in regional Western Australia was affected by a trigger event. Schedule 3 will equalise the respective obligations of GWN7 and WIN by inserting provisions in division 5C of part 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act, which alter the manner in which local content points may be accumulated by a commercial television broadcasting licensee for the three licence areas that cover the regional areas of Western Australia.
The measures contained in this bill represent the next steps in the government's commitment to implementing holistic reform to the Australian media industry. I commend the bill to the House.