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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31456


Mr WILLIAMS (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (9:38 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

On 7 April this year I announced changes to the anti-siphoning provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

With these changes, the government reaffirmed its commitment to the anti-siphoning scheme.

The scheme continues to protect the access of Australian viewers to events of national importance and cultural significance by giving priority to free-to-air television broadcasters in acquiring the broadcast rights to those events.

This remains an important policy objective for the government.

With fewer than one in four households having access to subscription television at this time, the rationale for the anti-siphoning scheme remains valid.

However, after extensive consultation, the government determined that the anti-siphoning scheme did need updating to better reflect the attitudes of Australians and the commercial realities of the sporting and broadcasting sectors.

The government has therefore developed a new anti-siphoning list which will protect listed events which take place between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2010.

On 11 May 2004, I signed the Broadcasting Services (Events) Notice (No. 1) 2004, which gave effect to these changes.

The government's package of reforms to the anti-siphoning scheme also included a decision to extend the automatic de-listing period from six to 12 weeks.

This requires a legislative amendment to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

And this bill seeks to give effect to that decision.

Automatic de-listing of an event currently occurs six weeks prior to the start of the event.

The responsible minister can stop the automatic de-listing if, in the view of the minister, the free-to-air broadcasters have not had a reasonable opportunity to acquire the relevant rights.

This bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to extend the automatic de-listing period from 1,008 hours (or six weeks) prior to the start of an event, to 2,016 hours (or 12 weeks) prior to its start.

This amendment will improve the efficiency of the operation of the de-listing provisions of the anti-siphoning scheme to the benefit of sporting bodies and viewers, by allowing subscription television operators a reasonable opportunity to acquire those rights not taken up by the free-to-air broadcasters, arrange coverage and market the programs to viewers.

This change, together with the removal of some events from the anti-siphoning list, will provide subscription television broadcasters with access to the broadcast rights for an increased range of sports, to the benefit of both sporting bodies and viewers.

The bill also contains a transitional rule which applies to events that start between six and 12 weeks after commencement of the bill.

The effect of this rule is that events of this kind are de-listed upon commencement of the bill.

This provision aims to provide certainty to sporting bodies and broadcasters in relation to events that are on the anti-siphoning list and that start during the first 12 weeks after the bill's commencement.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Fitzgibbon) adjourned.