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Wednesday, 25 September 2002
Page: 4799

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (9:31 AM) —I table the explanatory memorandum and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment Bill (No.1) 2002 amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to delay the commencement date for obligations on broadcasters in mainland State capitals to provide a minimum amount of High Definition Television programming until 1 July 2003.

Currently, the Broadcasting Services Act requires that regulations be made that require broadcasters to simulcast an amount of HDTV programming during the simulcast period. These regulations have been made. In particular, broadcasters are required to commence transmitting HDTV within two years of the start of the simulcast period in their licence area. Broadcasters are also required to transmit at least 20 hours per week of HDTV from two years after the start of the simulcast period in their licence area.

For broadcasters in mainland State capitals this requirement is scheduled to commence from 1 January 2003. Areas outside the mainland State capitals will commence their simulcast period at a range of dates before 1 January 2004, and will become subject to their HDTV obligations two years after the relevant simulcast commencement date. The bill will not change the commencement of the HDTV obligations in areas outside mainland State capitals.

The Government's 2001 election policy stated it would consider legislative amendments to annualise the HDTV quota at 1040 hours per year, and to include advertisement time in the quota (in line with Australian content programming standards). The Government is also considering the possibility of broader changes to the digital television regulatory regime to encourage consumer take-up of digital equipment.

It is unlikely that any legislative amendments to provide flexibility in HDTV quota arrangements could be put in place before the HDTV obligation comes into effect for broadcasters in mainland State capitals on 1 January 2003. Therefore, the provisions in the bill are a holding action providing a short delay of six months to the HDTV commencement date to avoid short term compliance problems in the period between 1 January 2003 and the passage and implementation of any legislative changes to the HDTV quota regime.

The Government remains strongly committed to HDTV as an important element of the digital television landscape. HDTV, along with program enhancements (such as multiview programs) and multichanneling by the national broadcasters, are all aspects of the current digital television regime which will, over time, attract consumers.

Both in Australia and internationally there are now increasing signs that HDTV will play a key role in digital television take-up. A significant proportion of the set top boxes sold to date in Australia have been HDTV boxes. In the USA, there is growing support from the production sector to produce digital product in HDTV. In Japan, it is considered that HDTV will be a primary driver of digital television take up.

However, the HDTV obligations on broadcasters in mainland State capitals should be delayed until 1 July 2003 to allow time for the detail of those obligations to be settled.

Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of this bill be adjourned to the first day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.