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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 6806

Senator FARRELL (South AustraliaParliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water) (18:44): I rise to speak on the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Anti-siphoning) Bill 2012. I would like to thank all the contributors to this debate—particularly those who spoke this evening, Senators Bilyk and Eggleston.

The Australian government is committed to ensuring that iconic and nationally significant events are made available to Australian audiences on free-to-air TV. This bill will deliver a more effective antisiphoning scheme and increase the coverage and quality of major free-to-air television events. A significant reform will be the introduction of a two-tier antisiphoning system that Senator Eggleston just spoke about. The bill will establish two tiers, tier A and tier B. Nationally iconic events such as the Melbourne Cup and the Ashes cricket will be on tier A. Free-to-air broadcasters for the rights to these events will show them live on their main channel, reflecting their importance and their popularity. Regionally iconic and nationally significant events such as State of Origin rugby league and the Australian Masters golf will be on tier B. Broadcasters may televise these tier B events live or on limited delay on their main channel or a digital multichannel. This will give broadcasters greater scheduling flexibility and help drive the digital television take-up.

The bill requires free-to-air broadcasters to televise listed events to which they hold rights or offer the rights to another broadcaster if they do not plan to televise. This will maximise the opportunity for Australian audiences to see antisiphoning events on free-to-air television. The bill will also extend the operation of the antisiphoning scheme to new media providers, future proofing the scheme and ensuring that major events are not siphoned off exclusively to online media such as internet protocol TV. The bill lengthens the automatic delisting period from 12 to 26 weeks, giving sports bodies more time to negotiate with subscription television broadcasters for rights to events that free-to-air broadcasters do not intend to buy.

New reporting obligations will also be introduced to ensure the new scheme is effectively overseen and administered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority with a review of the new scheme to commence before 31 December 2014. Through the development of this bill the government has recognised the significance of Australia's two largest domestic football competitions: the National Rugby League and the Australian Football League. The new scheme will enable the minister to specify a set number of NRL and AFL matches per round that should be available to free-to-air broadcasters.

In light of the issues raised through the Senate committee inquiry into the bill, the government will move a small number of amendments to this bill. Those amendments will, firstly, refine the notification provisions to streamline their operations and avoid a potential double notification requirement on free-to-air broadcasters. Secondly, it will remove redundant wording in the definition of 'live' in the bill along with the minister's discretion to modify telecast requirements for tier B events. Thirdly, it will narrow the definition of 'program supplier' to avoid the application of the scheme's rules to entities to which it was not intended to apply. Fourthly, it will modify the acquisition rules to prevent the rights to antisiphoning events being made available to subscription broadcasters where free-to-air broadcasters acquire rights that are less than the whole.

The final amendment will strengthen the acquisition and conferral rules that apply to round by round matches of the AFL and the NRL to provide a more balanced outcome for all broadcasters while ensuring free-to-air broadcasters continue to be able to acquire key matches for these iconic national competitions. I recommend that senators support this bill.

Debate interrupted.