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Wednesday, 25 June 2003
Page: 12453


Senator ALSTON (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) (11:24 AM) —I move government amendment (21) on sheet QS205:

(21) Schedule 2, page 36 (after line 13), after item 5, insert:

5A At the end of paragraph 67(4)(c)

Add “and”.

5B After paragraph 67(4)(c)

Insert:

(d) the breach would not result from the person or another person becoming the successful applicant for the allocation of a commercial radio broadcasting licence;

5C Subsection 67(4)

After “the applicant”, insert “for approval”.

5D After subsection 67(5)

Insert:

(5A) In deciding the duration of the period to be specified in the notice, the ABA:

(a) must have regard to the minimum period within which the person could take action (other than surrendering a licence or causing a licence to be surrendered) to ensure that the breach of the relevant provision ceases; and

(b) must not have regard to any other matters.

5E Subsection 67(7)

Omit “2 years”, substitute “one year”.

5F Application of amendments—section 67 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992

(1) Paragraph 67(4)(d) and subsection 67(5A) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 apply in relation to applications made under subsection 67(1) of that Act after the commencement of this item.

(2) The amendment of subsection 67(7) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 made by this Schedule applies if the 45-day period referred to in that subsection ends after the commencement of this item.

The purpose of this amendment is to tighten the circumstances in which an approval of a temporary ownership or control breach could be granted, including ensuring that any approvals are granted only for the minimum necessary time. There is some concern that commercial radio broadcasters can manipulate the structure of regional markets by acquiring new licences and on-selling them either with a restricted format or to other players who are unlikely to compete for the same audience. The government previously introduced amendments to the bill to prevent the sale of radio licences from being the subject of conditions which would restrict future program formats.

Amendment (21) will further amend the bill to restrict the circumstances in which an approval of a temporary ownership or control breach could be granted under section 67 of the Broadcasting Services Act. This amendment will restrict the capacity of broadcasters to use the temporary approval mechanism to engage in conduct designed to manage or manipulate regional radio markets. Item 5B will prevent a temporary approval of a breach of the ownership and control provisions from being given where the breach would result from a person acquiring a new commercial radio broadcasting licence issued by the ABA. Item 5D requires the ABA to set the minimum approval period for a temporary breach considered necessary for the licence holder to rectify the breach. The surrendering of a licence is not considered an appropriate rectification measure as it may result in a substantial financial loss to the applicant. Item 5E provides that, where a decision on approval is not provided within the relevant time period, the automatic approval period granted under subsection 67(7) is now one year instead of two years. Items 5F(1) and 5F(2) ensure that these new arrangements will apply to applications for approval made after this amendment takes effect.