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Tuesday, 20 June 2006
Page: 100

Mr BALDWIN (7:55 PM) —We appreciate the contributions from the members for Oxley, Mitchell, Kingsford Smith, Fisher, Melbourne and Parramatta. I thank the members because each has expressed their support for this bill, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Subscription Television Drama and Community Broadcasting Licences) Bill 2006. This bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act of 1992, referred to commonly as the BSA, to increase flexibility in the operation of the 10 per cent requirement for new spending on drama on subscription television. Perhaps I should quickly nominate what subscription television is. There are currently 17 available subscription television drama channels in Australia: Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, Hallmark, Disney Channel, Fox 8, Fox Kids/Classics, Movie Extra, Movie Greats, Movie One, Movie One Take 2, Nickelodeon, Showtime, Showtime 2, Encore, TV1 and UKTV.

The subscription television drama expenditure scheme requires that subscription television broadcasting licensees spend at least 10 per cent of the total program expenditure on new Australian and New Zealand drama programs in each financial year. Licensees have consistently met the expenditure requirements. This requirement reflects the role of drama in shaping our sense of Australian identity, character and cultural diversity and underpins a wide range of drama projects for cinema, subscription and free-to-air television released, including the movie The Proposition and the drama series Love My Way. In fact, the subscription TV industry spent $15.9 million on Australian and New Zealand drama in 2004-05.

This bill amends the BSA to allow limited preproduction expenditure on script development to be claimed in the financial year it is incurred rather than when the principal photography commences, which is the case under the current scheme. These amendments will encourage greater investment in script development for local drama. I note the member Fisher said that you can make a bad film out of a good script but you cannot make a good film out of a bad script. I am encouraged that money can be spent and claimed on developing up the proposal and the script for a film but also note that only a maximum of 10 per cent of the quota can be carried forward on script development. So, in essence, one per cent on script development can be carried forward in the year.

This bill also amends the BSA to allow expenditure in excess of the annual 10 per cent quota to be carried forward into the next year. The amendments will better accommodate the way in which commercial and investment decisions regarding new drama projects are made. The carry forward measures in the bill will provide the subscription broadcast industry with increased flexibility in its investment decisions and will encourage a higher level of investment in quality local drama productions. The proposed amendments have the support of the subscription television broadcasting sector and the production industry.

The bill also amends the BSA to give the Australian Communications and Media Authority a discretion to allow the transfer of community broadcast licences to another person which represents the same community interests. This is intended to deal with changes of corporate arrangements by licensees. Community broadcasting enjoys bipartisan support. The community broadcasting amendments will enable licensees to make sensible changes to their corporate arrangements without putting their licences at risk and thereby remove a degree of uncertainty from the sector. Again, I congratulate those members who spoke to this bill for their contributions. I commend the bill to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DJC Kerr)—It being nearly 8 pm, I observe that earlier today the honourable member for Shortland drew the attention of the Deputy Speaker to the state of the House. In accordance with standing order 55(b), I will count the House if the member so desires. The member not being present, the matter lapses.

Mr Price —Mr Deputy Speaker, I call your attention to the state of the House.

(Quorum formed)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The question is that this bill be now read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.