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Broadcasting seized up by over-regulation



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P A R L I A M E N T O F A U S T R A L I A

H O U S E O F R E P R E S E N T A T I V E S

SUITE 2 3 MALE STREET BRIGHTON. VIC. 3186 TEL. (03) 592 9777

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IAN MACPHEE FEDERAL MEMBER FOR GOLDSTEIN . . . „ „ ,

s h a d o w m in is t e r f o r Communications 27 November 1985

BROADCASTING SEIZED UP BY OVER-REGULATION

The Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal provides clear evidence that the broadcasting industry is seized up by over­ regulation.

The Report is a sorry catalogue of regulation, litigation and delays. It gives compelling weight to the Opposition's proposals for simpler laws and a greater reliance on self-regulation in broadcasting.

Despite the best efforts of its staff, the demands placed on the Tribunal by excessive regulations have meant that it has failed in its reponsibility to process new licence applications.

The Tribunal's admission that "this has been a year when the Tribunal's resources have been stretched to the limit in endeavouring to meet its responsibilities" is an understatement.

The Tribunal complains of:

* legislation preventing the expectations of improved broadcasting from being realised

* legislation creating "difficulties and frustrations for the Tribunal, the industry and the public. The Tribunal's efficiency, effectiveness and credibility has been affected by the inadequacies of the legislation"

* the Tribunal finding itself "increasingly drawn into planning and engineering issues in the performance of its licensing functions" ‘

* the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act imposing a "plethora of directions in the conduct of inquiries" which are "productive of considerable difficulty in their practical application".

"The interactions, ramifications and applications of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act now applying are a fertile source for litigation," the Report says.

"The result is inevitable concentration of the Tribunal's scarce public resources on a small number of issues and inquiries ... Whatever the policy objectives of the current scheme, in practical reality the Tribunal no longer has the flexibility to direct its

resources to the areas which it would judge to be most critically important to broadcasters and the community."

The Tribunal says it is not equipped with the resources to cope with the demands of an expanding workload caused by the expansion of radio and television services. In addition, its structure and organisation under the Public Service Act prevents it from meeting

the demands and challenges it faces. .

. . . 2

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The Tribunal also complains of the "severe depletion in member and staff resources caused by the long running Perth inquiry" into a third commercial television licence.

The Tribunal lists the following problems that have resulted:

1. Decisions and reports often take months rather than weeks to be finalised after the completion of hearings.

2. The Tribunal has been able to make little progress in its review of Television Advertising Time Standards following the release of a proposal in November 1983.

3. The Tribunal has been able to make only limited progress on the review of the Television Program Standards which was commenced in 1981. This includes an identification of current standards that are clearly redundant or can be easily simplified or reduced without raising any serious policy issues.

4. Hearings for the grant of new licences have had to be deferred for many months.

5. The Tribunal has been able to make little progress in its review of the Australian content rules for television since the release of a discussion paper in 1983.

6. Work on reorganisation of the Tribunal's staff structure and resources has proceeded very slowly.

7. It has not been possible to establish an adequate system for performing the function of the assembly and distribution of information relating to radio and television.

8. Despite assurances from consultants, only limited progress has been made in the review of the requirements relating to the provision by licensees of financial information regarding the operation of stations.

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Inquiries: Ian Macphee, 72 7502