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Australia proposes Broadcast and Content Reform Package

Australia’s Government has announced a comprehensive package of reforms that it says will improve the sustainability of Australia’s free-to-air broadcasting sector, protect children from exposure to gambling advertising and support the creation of high quality Australian content.

Other elements of the package include adjustments to the ‘anti-siphoning’ regime, aimed at giving free-to-air broadcasters a chance to show major events, abolition of outdated media ownership rules and providing funding to support under-represented sports on pay-TV.

According to the Government, legislative reform is needed to ensure the ongoing viability of Australian broadcasters. The past decade has seen the growth of online service providers challenging the traditional business model of Australian broadcasters for audiences and advertising revenue. Australian audiences now have more viewing opportunities than ever, being able to select from multiple services including free-to-air television, pay-TV, catch up TV, streaming services, subscription video on demand and user generated video. This has led to a fragmentation of audiences the erosion of advertising revenue for commercial broadcasters as they compete with online content providers.

The Government has developed a reform package that it says acknowledges the growing commercial pressure on Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters and also their important role in providing Australian content that both informs and reflects Australian cultural life.

To assist broadcasters to compete in the modern media environment, the Government will abolish broadcasting licence fees and introduce a price for the use of broadcast spectrum that more accurately reflects its use. Spectrum is essential to a digitally networked economy and a major contributor to Australia’s economic and social wellbeing. It is critical infrastructure enabling production for industrial, commercial, educational and other social services. The move to a spectrum price for broadcasters recognises the value of this important resource.

The package also includes further restrictions on gambling advertising and promotions during live sports programmes to reduce the exposure of children to gambling. The new restrictions will prohibit all gambling promotions from five minutes before the scheduled start of play in all live sports broadcasts to five minutes after the conclusion of play or to 8:30 pm. Importantly, the restrictions will apply to commercial television, commercial radio, subscription television, the Special Broadcasting Service, online services, including ‘catch up’ services, and live online streaming that are aimed at Australian audiences.