The federal executive government of Australia has passed a comprehensive media reform package that will see the current broadcasting license fees done away with, as part of an effort to “improve the sustainability of Australia’s free-to-air broadcasting sector.”
The package will abolish free-to-air broadcasting annual license fees, which are currently estimated to raise about $130 million for TV and radio.
The aim with this is to improve broadcasters’ ability to “operate on a level playing field” with other platforms. “In today’s media environment, license fees are a relic of a bygone age of regulation,” Sen. Mitch Fifield, Australia’s minister for communications, minister for the arts and manager of government business in the senate, said in a statement.
Instead of the license fee, broadcasters will pay new annual spectrum fees estimated to raise about $40 million.
“The financial relief provided by the package gives commercial broadcasters the flexibility to grow and adapt in the changing media landscape, invest in their businesses and in Australian content, and better compete with online providers,” the statement continued.
Also addressed in the reform package is Australia’s anti-siphoning regime, which regulates media companies’ access to significant sporting events.
The scheme will be amended to reduce the size of the list and update other parts while ensuring that iconic sporting events of national significance are retained.
The Australian government is planning to provide $30 million in funding over four years to pay TV to maintain and increase coverage of women’s sports, niche sports and high participation sports that are less sustainable to broadcast.
Later this year, the Department of Communications and the Arts, Screen Australia and the ACMA will undertake a review of Australian and children’s screen content.
“The review will identify sustainable policies to ensure the ongoing availability of Australian and children’s content to domestic and international audiences, regardless of platform.”
Ten Network’s CEO, Paul Anderson, is among those welcoming the government’s announcement. “The government’s package provides very welcome, immediate financial relief for all commercial free-to-air television broadcasters. It provides a boost for local content and the local production sector.
“Every dollar from today’s changes will be reinvested into our great Australian content and into continuing to enhance our services for viewers across all platforms.
“Recent financial results and announcements from across the Australian media industry clearly demonstrate that this is a sector under extreme competitive pressure from the foreign-owned tech media giants,” he said.
“A critical element of this holistic package is the removal of two of the current cross-media ownership rules: the two out of three rule and the 75-percent reach rule.
“These cross-media rules arbitrarily prevent Australian television, radio and newspaper companies from operating across media platforms. They are stifling growth and costing jobs,” Anderson continued.
“Now that we have a holistic package, it is time for Parliament to get rid of these pre-internet rules to give Ten and other Australian companies a fair go against the foreign tech media giants whose dominance and influence is growing rapidly in Australia.
“This package is not just about Ten or free-to-air television. It is about ensuring that there is a future for Australian media companies—for local journalism, for Australian stories on screen and for a local production sector that provides jobs and training for thousands of Australians, many of whom go on to success on the global stage,” he said.
“Anyone who supports a future for Australian media companies must support this package and we call on the Parliament to pass these reforms urgently or risk losing local voices altogether.
“We welcome the review of the content rules also announced today. The rules need to be looked at in the context of the changing media landscape,” Anderson concluded.