Keeping free-to-air services prominent

Keeping Free-To-Air Services Prominent

Joshua Cole, 6th December 2023

The proliferation of new types of media content and new types of devices has made it increasingly challenging for audiences to quickly locate traditional broadcasting services, including community broadcasting.

There have also been concerns that device manufacturers may start to require free-to-air services to pay them to be available on their device, or sideline them in favour of content services that pay for a more prominent position on the device home screen.

As a first step in ensuring that Australian free-to-air broadcasting services remain prominent and free, the government last week introduced the Communications Legislation Amendment (Prominence and Anti-siphoning) Bill 2023.  While the Bill addresses only television services, it is intended to form the model for similar radio legislation.

Earlier this year, the CBAA contributed to a government review of prominence proposals and we are pleased that the Bill broadly reflects the framework we supported for both television and radio.

The Bill includes “must carry” requirements which mean that television manufacturers must meet minimum standards to ensure Australian free-to-air TV broadcasting services including community TV are prominent on the home screen of televisions free of charge (both for the audience and the broadcaster) and without any alteration.

The government has sent the Bill to a Committee to review over the summer before being debated in Parliament early next year. The CBAA will be making a submission supporting the Bill, with some fine tuning.

This legislation has major implications for what will happen next for radio receivers in cars and audio devices, so we will be closely following its progress.

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It’s been a busy few weeks for sector advocacy. The CBAA has met with over 50 politicians to build support for Roadmap 2033. We made important submissions, in particular advocating for the role of community radio in the providing news services.


The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) welcomes the passing of legislation that guarantees community television will stay on air and gives Channel 31 Melbourne and Geelong and Channel 44 Adelaide greater certainty for the future.


The largest pressure faced by community radio stations is financial. Stations constantly face the reality of how to ensure an adequate operating income in an increasingly competitive mediascape. Van Vuuren (2006c) argues that the extent of the contribution of community media to media democracy in Australia depends largely on how the sector manages commercial pressures. There is a need to ensure more financial stability to allow stations to focus on their primary community-orientated and participatory goals.