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Community broadcasting sector wins again.

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The Government has decided to allow the community broadcasting sector to continue to utilise the sixth television channel until at least the year 2000, the Minister for Communications, the Information Economy and the Arts, Senator Richard Alston, announced today.

Current funding arrangements will continue. This means community groups can continue to complement programming by providing free to air television broadcasters and provide innovative and diverse programming which promotes cultural diversity in local areas.

The decision follows a statutory review (under section 215(1) of the Broadcasting Services Act) which found no net national benefit in lifting the current restriction on allocating more than three commercial analogue television licences in any licence area.

The review drew on advice from the Bureau of Transport and Communications Economics (BTCE) and the Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA), as well as input from industry and other interested parties.

In conducting its economic analysis, the BTCE found 'there is unlikely to be any net benefit in removing the market restriction on the allocation of commercial television licences'.

The ABA found that, if the 'three licence to a market' rule was lifted, 'there could be negative consequences for the existing commercial television industry, without any significant offsetting benefits for the community'.

Senator Alston said: "Australia is well served by the current commercial television arrangements. The range of programming available to Australian audiences on free to air television is second to none in the world."

Media contact:

Terry O'Connor, Minister's office, 02 6277 7480; 0419 636 879

Website http://www.richardalston.dca.gov.au