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Changes to the Broadcasting Services Act affecting community broadcasters

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, 13th September 2018
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There have been recent changes made to the Broadcasting Services Act related to criteria for assessing applications for and renewals of community radio broadcasting licences.

Directly below is a summary of the changes, with more detailed information succeeding. 

Summary of Changes
  • Changes to the Broadcasting Services Act affect the criteria upon which community radio licence applications and renewals are assessed.
  • The amendment formally adds criterion about local content - called "material of local significance".
  • The CBAA participated in a feedback process and its concerns were echoed by supportive politicians who urged the government to consider an alternative approach. 
  • Ultimately, the Bill was passed without modification to this change. 
  • The B66 for licence renewals now requires stations to identify the number of hours of "material of local significance" broadcast.

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017 provides for a new assessment criterion for applications and renewals relating to material of local significance, as defined below.

Changes to the Act

Previous Broadcasting Services Act s84 Allocation of community broadcasting licences:

(2)  In deciding whether to allocate a community broadcasting licence that is a broadcasting services bands licence to an applicant or to one of a group of applicants, the ACMA is to have regard to:

(b)  the nature and diversity of the interests of that community;

Change has been made to add the following paragraph at s84(2)(ba) after the above paragraph 84(2)(b):

(ba) in the case of a community radio broadcasting licence—the extent to which the proposed service or services would provide material of local significance;

And defines “local significance” in a new paragraph

84(3) - For the purposes of paragraph (2)(ba), material is of local significance if:

(a)  it is hosted in the licence area of the proposed licence; or

(b)  it is produced in the licence area of the proposed licence; or

(c)  it relates to the licence area of the proposed licence.

What does it mean for stations?

In order for the ACMA to be able to assess stations against this new requirement, licence renewal applications will now need to include information as to the extent to which stations are broadcasting material of local significance.

The B66 application form has been amended accordingly, and stations who have already been notified by the ACMA that their licence is due soon for renewal must use the new form. Stations who this applies to have been notified by the ACMA.

Get more information on the changes, including resources to assist your renewal. The CBAA can also help you answer the new questions, including around external content such as CRN, so please don't hesitate to call on 02 9310 2999.

Supportive comments in Parliament

As part of CBAA’s government engagement strategy, we impressed our hesitations about the amendments on a number of Senators who are active supporters of community radio to ensure that our concerns are on record. Speaking on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017, ALP Senator Deborah O’Neill referred to the general merits of the Bill and provided support for the CBAA’s concerns over the “wording of the bill as it currently stands”, encouraging “the government to address the CBAA's concerns to ensure clarity and certainty for the sector”.

Greens Senator Andrew Bartlett also made a number of comments in the Senate in support of CBAA’s position. Speaking in the broad about the strength of the community broadcasting industry, Senator Bartlett strongly commended the work of the community broadcasting sector and supported the Bill’s intended encouragement of sector to “provide greater coverage of local issues”. As an active participant in the community radio industry, Senator Bartlett voiced support for developing capability for “local participation and greater coverage of local issues” in the community broadcasting sector. 

A big thank you also to Meryl Swanson MP, Michelle Rowland MP, Sharon Claydon MP, Stephen Jones MP, Susan Templeman MP and Anthony Albanese MP who spoke in support of the CBAA and the community broadcasting sector.

Got questions?

Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the CBAA via email office@cbaa.org.au or phone 02 9310 2999. We will be monitoring the changes and how it affects stations, and welcome any feedback and comments on this matter. 

Want to know more?

Read the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017, visit the Bill homepage here.

Read Senator O’Neill and Senator Bartlett’s speech to the Senate on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Foreign Media Ownership and Community Radio) Bill 2017, click here.

Read RadioInfo’s media report regarding the Bill, click here.

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Abstract
This paper examines the changing contribution of local radio to the democratic process in Australia. It takes the whole local area approach suggested by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, to examine all the services available in three regional areas to assess their potential in facilitating public sphere discussion, disputation and deliberation, and (since the common assumption is that deregulation severely curtailed these processes) it does this in a historical frame, comparing the changes in services from 1976 to 2001. Because of its strengths in the analysis of relationships between the state (public) and private sectors, Habermas’s public sphere theory is used to frame this discussion. Recent theoretical extensions have also seen the welcome elaboration of issues of power (Fraser, 1992, 2000) and the inclusion of a new and subtle range of cultural issues (Peters, 1993; McGuigan, 1997, 2004; Keane, 1998) inside its developing literature.