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Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill 1996 [1997]

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1996

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

SENATE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROADCASTING SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL 1996

 

 

 

EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon Richard Alston)

 

 

78918 Cat. No. 96 5123 3 ISBN 0644 478438

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROADCASTING SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL 1996

 

 

 

 

OUTLINE

 

 

 

The Broadcasting Services Amendment Bill 1996 would amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to enable the Minister to direct the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) to conduct an investigation into any matter within the communications power under paragraph 51(v) of the Constitution.  In particular, the Minister would be empowered to direct the ABA to conduct an investigation into a matter relating to the future regulation or operation of communications services (such as on “on-line” information and entertainment services).

 

 

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

 

The amendments are expected to have no significant impact on Commonwealth expenditure or revenue.

 

 

 



 

 

 

NOTES ON CLAUSES

 

 

Clause 1 - Short title

 

When enacted, this Act would be cited as the Broadcasting Services Amendment Act 1996 .

 

 

Clause 2 - Commencement

 

The amendments in this Act would commence on Royal Assent.

 

 

Clause 3 - Schedule(s)

 

The amendments of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Broadcasting Services Act) are set out in items 1- 4 of Schedule 1.  Item 5 of Schedule 1 is a savings provision that has effect according to its terms.

 

 

Schedule 1 - Amendment of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992

 

Item 1 - Title

 

This item amends the long title of the Broadcasting Services Act to add “and for related purposes”.

 

This amendment is consequential on the amendment in item 3 which empowers the Minister to direct the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) to investigate matters that are within the communications power in paragraph 51(v) of the Australian Constitution, but which extend beyond the existing definition of “broadcasting service”.

 

Item 2 - Paragraph 158(d) - Primary Functions of the ABA

 

Item 4 inserts a new paragraph 158(da), which provides that a primary  function of the ABA is to conduct investigations as directed by the Minister under section 171.  This amendment is also consequential on the amendment in item 3.

 

Item 3 - Section 171 - Minister may direct ABA to conduct an investigation

 

Section 171 empowers the Minister, if satisfied that a particular matter should be investigated in the interests of the due administration of the Act, to direct the ABA in writing to conduct an investigation into the matter.

 

Item 3 would introduce a new section 171.

 

New subsection 171(1) would enable the Minister to direct the ABA in writing to investigate any matter in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws under the “postal, telegraphic and other like services” power in paragraph 51(v) of the Australian Constitution.

 

New subsection 171(2) would confirm that, without limiting the scope of new subsection 171(1), the Minister may direct the ABA to investigate:

 

(a)        any matter that the Minister is satisfied should be investigated in the interests of the due administration of the Act; or

 

(b)        any matter relating to the future regulation or operation of a telecommunications service.

 

For the purposes of paragraph (b) above, a “telecommunications service” is defined to have the same meaning as in the Telecommunications Act 1991   (Section 6 of the Telecommunications Act defines “telecommunications service” to mean “....a service for carrying communications by means of guided or unguided electromagnetic energy or both.”)

 

New subsection 171(1) and new paragraph 171(2)(b) are intended to ensure that the ABA can be directed by the Minister to investigate matters that fall within the Commonwealth’s Constitutional power to regulate communications services, regardless of whether those matters fall within the scope of the current definition in the Broadcasting Services Act of a “broadcasting service”.

 

The current definition of “broadcasting service” in section 6 of the Act excludes services that make programs available on demand on a point to point basis, including “dial up” services.  In a report to the Minister on its “Investigation Into the Content of On-line Services” dated 30 June 1996, the ABA confirmed that most on-line information and entertainment services would not be covered by the current definition of “broadcasting service”.

 

An immediate purpose of the proposed amendment in item 3 is therefore to ensure  that the Minister’s power to direct the ABA to conduct investigations can extend to an investigation of the future regulatory arrangements and policy directions in respect of    on-line services.  Such an investigation might, for example, involve consultations with industry groups on possible matters to be included in any industry Codes of Practice and education strategies in relation to the use of on-line services.

 

 

Item 4 - Section 172 - ABA may call for written submissions from the public

 

Section 170 enables the ABA to conduct investigations for the purposes of the performance or exercise of any of its functions and powers.

 

Section 172 of the Broadcasting Services Act enables the ABA, in conducting an investigation for the purposes of the performance or exercise of any of its functions and powers, to call for written submissions from the public.

 

This item amends section 172 to omit reference to the conduct of an investigation by the ABA “for the purposes of the performance or exercise of any of its functions or powers”.  This amendment is consequential on item 3 (proposed new section 171).  The purpose of the amendment is to make it clear that the ABA may call for written submissions from the public in any case where it is conducting an investigation under Division 2 of Part 13.

 

Item 5 - Saving

 

This item preserves the validity of any investigations which, immediately before commencement of the amendments in this Act, are being conducted by the ABA in accordance with a direction issued by the Minister under section 171 of the Broadcasting Services Act.  On commencement, any such direction given by the Minister would be taken to have been given by the Minister under section 171 as amended by this Act.