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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 3591

Mr ALBANESE (Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government) (5:45 PM) —I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television) Bill 2010. Measures in the bill address areas of digital television signal deficiency, or black spots, so that every Australian has access to all free-to-air commercial and national television services. The bill was referred to the Senate Environment Communications and the Arts Legislation Committee, which recommended that the Senate support this bill.

On 11 May 2010, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy announced that the government would provide $375.4 million over 12 years to fund a new satellite service to bring digital television to all Australians who cannot adequately receive terrestrial digital television services. This bill introduces the legislative framework to deliver the new satellite service to eligible viewers in three new commercial television licence areas. Initially, only existing remote commercial television broadcasting licensees will be eligible to apply for the licences. The new satellite service is intended to deliver the same number of digital commercial and national television channels to these areas as is currently available in metropolitan markets. The service will also provide access to local news sourced from regional commercial television broadcasters operating in their satellite licence area.

This bill also amends the Copyright Act 1968 to provide a statutory licensing scheme to ensure relevant broadcasters fulfil their obligations to provide content to the satellite broadcasting service licensees without the potential for copyright infringement. Satellite service licensees will need to comply with the same program standards and captioning requirements that apply to terrestrial commercial television broadcasting licensees. But the bill does take into account the regulatory and technical complexities of broadcasting across time zones. Ensuring the regulation of terrestrial transmission of antisiphoning events also applies to services provided by satellite service licensees.

The bill introduces measures to allow all commercial free-to-air digital television services, including digital multichannels such as GO!, 7TWO and ONE HD, to be provided to Australians no matter where they live. Broadcasting licensees in underserved areas will have the same opportunities as other regional and metropolitan broadcasting licensees to provide a full suite of digital television services in their licence area through provisions to allow commercial broadcasters in regional South Australia, Griffith and Broken Hill to apply for a third digital-only commercial television licence.

Satellite services will ensure all Australians receive the full range of commercial and national television broadcasting services. While most Australians receive their television services from the network broadcasters’ own transmission towers and will continue to do so after the switch-over, it is simply not feasible to use terrestrial coverage to serve all Australians. Some services currently using the Aurora platform raised concerns about the new satellite service for commercial and national television. This bill does not prevent services like NITV or the Rural Health Education Foundation from negotiating access to the new platform, as they did with the Aurora platform.

This bill dramatically improves the choice and quality of digital television services for viewers by establishing a regulatory framework for broadcasters to offer an equivalent range of commercial and national digital television services to their viewers through terrestrial transmission or via satellite. I commend the bill to the House.

Question put:

That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Anthony Smith’s amendment) stand part of the question.