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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12428


Mr ALBANESE (GrayndlerLeader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:01): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Broadcasting Services Amendment (Review of Future Uses of Broadcasting Services Bands Spectrum) Bill 2011 introduces amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. These amendments will defer the conduct of a statutory review of whether to allocate one or more additional commercial television broadcast licences. The amendments will also widen the scope of the review to take into account alternative uses of broadcasting services band spectrum.

There is a currently a moratorium that prevents the allocation of any new commercial television broadcasting licences prior to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy directing the Australian Communications and Media Authority to do so after the conduct of a statutory review. Existing provisions of the Broadcasting Services Act require the minister to cause this review to be conducted by 1 January 2012. The bill will amend this date to 1 January 2013.

The deferral of this statutory review will allow it to consider the outcomes of the ongoing convergence review, which is scheduled to report to government by the end of March 2012. The convergence review involves a wide-ranging examination of the policy and regulatory frameworks that apply to Australia's media and communications landscape, including broadcasting. The bill's amendments will therefore enable a review into the allocation of additional commercial broadcasting licences to be deferred while the very framework underpinning licensing is being reconsidered by a separate review.

Following the completion of digital switchover and the restack of digital television services necessary to achieve the digital dividend, there will be only one television channel available for nationwide allocation.

With incumbent national and commercial broadcasters already using five channels for their digital multiplexes, this final channel is known as the sixth channel. It is also referred to as Channel A.

While this channel will not be available for nationwide allocation until the restack is completed in 2014, it is currently being used on a temporary basis for community television in mainland capitals cities.

The bill's amendments will expand scope of the review to ensure it can consider the full extent of services (not just commercial television services) that could be provided using the sixth channel in the context of a converged media landscape. The bill will also amend the matters that must be considered by the review to take into account the impact of new services using this spectrum on existing broadcasting services and consumers.

In conclusion, the amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 introduced by this bill will ensure the value of the statutory review of licence allocation required by this legislation. The bill's deferral of this review and the widening of its scope will allow the review to be well informed and in keeping with the government's wider reforms to Australia's broadcasting sector.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.