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Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television Switch-over) Bill 2008

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2008

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROADCASTING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (DIGITAL TELEVISION SWITCH-OVER) BILL 2008

 

 

 

 

SUPPLEMENTARY EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amendments to be moved on behalf of the Government

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by authority of the Minister for Broadband, Communications

and the Digital Economy, Senator the Honourable Stephen Conroy)

 



BROADCASTING LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (DIGITAL TELEVISION SWITCH-OVER) BILL 2008

 

 

OUTLINE

 

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television Switch-over) Bill 2008 amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) to implement the Government’s policies to achieve a switch-over to digital television by 31 December 2013.

 

The proposed amendments make amendments to the Bill to omit several items and substitute new items that would provide for:

 

(a)               quarterly reporting by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) about the extent to which free to air television broadcast transmissions in SDTV digital mode achieve equivalent coverage and reception quality when compared to transmissions in analog mode in the same licence or coverage area; and

 

(b)              six monthly reporting by the Minister to Parliament on progress in converting self-help television re-transmission services from analog to digital mode, and the identification and rectification of digital transmission blackspots.

 

The items to be omitted are Senate amendments to the Bill that would require that Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to determine minimum criteria, and to cause a report to be published about whether those criteria are being met, in relation to the ‘readiness’ of a local market area to convert to digital only television broadcasting services. If the criteria are not being met, the Senate amendments would make the Minister responsible for ensuring a plan is made to ensure that the criteria will be met, that switchover is deferred, or that broadcasters could agree to continue with switchover. The Senate amendments have the potential to delay the Government’s timetable for digital television switch-over by the end of 2013, due to the prospect for the minimum criteria to delay analog switch-off in a particular area unless the criteria have been met.

 

The Senate amendments would also require the Minister to cause reports to be conducted quarterly, and tabled in Parliament, on digital television transmission infrastructure issues that may prevent digital television transmissions from achieving the same level and quality of coverage as the analog transmission in that area. The proposed amendments would align the reporting requirements in relation to digital television transmission infrastructure issues to existing obligations for broadcasters under the Commercial and National Television Conversion Schemes, and give the reporting responsibility to the ACMA which is the Government entity required under the BSA to formulate and oversee the conversion schemes.  The amendments also ensure that the public is informed every six months on progress with the conversion of existing analog self-help retransmission facilities, and the identification and rectification of digital transmission blackspots.    

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT STATEMENT

 

This Bill is expected to have minimal impact on Commonwealth expenditure or revenue.



 

 

 



NOTES ON AMENDMENTS

 

Amendments (1) and (3) would omit items 3A and 4A from Schedule 2 to the Bill. These items would have inserted new provisions into Schedule 4 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA) to enable the Minister to make criteria, by legislative instrument, against which the ‘readiness’ of a local market area to cease receiving transmissions in analog mode would be assessed.

 

The omissions proposed by Amendments (1) and (3) are related to Amendments (5) and (6), noted below, which propose that Schedule 4 to the BSA be amended to facilitate quarterly reporting by the ACMA under the digital television conversion schemes about television transmission and reception quality matters.

 

Amendment (2) would insert a new item 3B to Schedule 2 to the Bill. The new item would insert a new defined term in clause 2 of Schedule 4 to the BSA. The definition of quarter relates to the quarterly reports proposed by Amendments (5) and (6), noted below. A quarter would be defined as a 3-month period beginning on 1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October each year.

 

Amendment (4) would omit item 4B from Schedule 2 to the Bill. This item would have amended Schedule 4 to the BSA to require the Minister to cause a report on free to air television transmission blackspots to be laid before each House of Parliament on a quarterly basis. The omission of this item is related to proposed Amendments (5) and (6), noted below.

 

Amendment (5) would insert a new item 12A into Schedule 2 to the Bill. The new item proposes to insert a new clause 11A into Schedule 4 to the BSA. The clause would require the commercial television conversion scheme to provide for the ACMA to report quarterly (as would be defined in clause 2 to Schedule 4 to the BSA, in accordance with Amendment (2) above) on the extent that the commercial television broadcasting services in each non-remote licence area:

·       achieves the policy objective that digital television coverage and reception quality is equivalent to the analog television coverage and reception quality for those services in that licence area; and

·       if the policy objective is not being met for a particular licence area, the steps that commercial television licensees in that licence area are taking to ensure that the objective will be met.

 

The ACMA report must be published on the ACMA website.

 

The quarterly reporting obligation would cease from the quarter that begins after the end of the simulcast period for the licence area concerned.

 

Amendment (6) would insert a new item 17A after item 17 in Schedule 2 to the Bill.  The new item proposes to insert a new clause 25A into Schedule 4 to the BSA.  The new clause would require the national television conversion scheme to provide for the ACMA to report quarterly (as would be defined in clause 2 to Schedule 4 to the BSA, in accordance with Amendment (2) above) on the extent that the national broadcasting services in each non-remote coverage area:

·       achieves the policy objective that digital television coverage and reception quality is equivalent to the analog television coverage and reception quality for national broadcasting services in that particular coverage area; and

·       if the policy objective is not being met for a particular licence area, the steps that the national broadcasters are taking to ensure that the objective will be met in that particular coverage area.

 

The ACMA report must be published on the ACMA website.

 

The quarterly reporting obligation would cease from the quarter that begins after the end of the simulcast period for the coverage area concerned.

 

Amendment (7) would insert a new item 20A after item 20 in Schedule 2 to the Bill.  Item 20A would add a new Part 12 (Ministerial reports) at the end of Schedule 4 to the BSA. In compliance with new clause 65, the Minister would cause a report to be prepared about:

 

a)      progress in converting self-help television retransmission services from analog to digital mode (new paragraph 65(1)(c) refers); and

 

b)     the identification and rectification of blackspots in relation to the reception commercial and national television broadcasting services in digital mode (new paragraph 65(1)(d) refers).

 

References in new clause 65 to self-help television retransmission services would refer to those television re-transmission services covered by subsection 212(1) of the BSA and which are provided by a self-help provider within the meaning of section 212A of the BSA (new subclause 65(4) refers).     

 

New clause 65 would require the Minister to cause the preparation of the reports as soon as practicable after each six month period beginning the six month period after 30 June 2009 (new paragraphs 65(1)(a) and (b)). The Minister would also be obliged to consult with the ACMA in relation to the preparation of the reports (new subclause 65(2) refers).   

 

Following the completion of a report, new subclause 65(3) would require the Minister to cause copies of the report to be tabled in each House of the Parliament within 15 sittings days of that House.