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Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Advocacy) Bill 2015

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(Circulated by authority of Senator McKenzie)









The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (the Corporation) Charter in relation to the delivery of services to rural and regional Australia in each State and Territory. Furthermore, it seeks to define the Corporation’s mandate for its public service function for journalism in rural and regional Australia.

The Bill does not attempt to dictate editorial policy or opinion, but rather seeks to ensure that the mechanisms required for a high standard of rural and regional media coverage exist. The allocation of staff and resources to regional areas will help deliver and monitor the services that regional communities require.

The Bill amends the Act to also ensure that the Board has two regional-residing members. It also establishes a Rural and Regional Advisory Council to help ensure that the quality and content of broadcasting in rural and regional Australia is one that is directed to the aims of public service, the maintenance of a physical presence in regional Australia, frequent delivery of rural and regional content and representation of the regions it services.

Furthermore, the Bill provides a mechanism to assess and report on the quality of rural and regional services provided and the satisfaction of the Corporation’s mandate towards rural and regional Australia.




Clause 1: Short title

1.         This clause is a formal provision which specifies that the short title of the Bill, once enacted, may be cited as the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Advocacy) Act 2015.


Clause 2: Commencement

2.         The Bill’s provisions are to commence on the day after the Bill receives Royal Assent.


Clause 3: Schedules

3.         This clause states that legislation that is specified within a Schedule to this Bill is amended or repealed as set out by the provisions of the Bill, and that any other item in a Schedule to the Bill has effect according to its terms.



Schedule 1 - Amendments


Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983


Items 1 and 2 - Subsection 3(1)

4.         Item 1 amends the definition of Advisory Council in subsection 3(1) to include a reference to the Rural and Regional Advisory Council established by the Bill (see items 9 to 11).


5.         Item 2 inserts a definition of Rural and Regional Council in subsection 3(1) relating to the establishment of the Rural and Regional Advisory Council (see items 9 to 11).


Items 3 to 6 - Section 6

6.         These items amend section 6 of the Act, which contains the Charter provisions the Corporation must fulfil.


a.        Item 3 repeals existing subparagraph 6(1)(a)(i) and substitutes it with a requirement to broadcast programs that not only contribute to a sense of national identity or cultural diversity, but also a sense of geographic and cultural diversity.


b.       Item 4 inserts a new paragraph 6(1)(d) which requires the Corporation to foster the space within which their journalists operate to the benefit of communities and the viability of regional journalism as a profession, by providing the resources necessary to enable the Corporation to satisfy its functions and duties in regional communities.


c.        Item 5 inserts subparagraphs 6(2)(a)(iiia) and (iiib), which require the Corporation to maintain an effective presence in regional communities and to provide regular transmissions of local content across a variety of platforms.


d.       Item 6 inserts subparagraph 6(2)(a)(vi) mandating that the Corporation approach its obligations to provide services in regional Australia from a social service and community perspective, as opposed to a purely commercial position, when making programming and management decisions. Subparagraph 6(2)(a)(vii), which is also inserted by this item, requires the Corporation to have regard to community expectations in regional areas as to the frequency and nature of broadcasts.


Item 7 - Subsection 8(2A)

7.         This item inserts subsection 8(2A) which requires the Board to consult regional employee stakeholders and the Rural and Regional Advisory Council in relation to implementing policy affecting regional areas. The details of these consultations must be included in the Corporation’s annual report (see item 17).



Item 8 - Subsection 8(3)

8.         This item inserts in subsection 8(3) a reference to subsection 8(2A). Subsection 8(3), as amended by this item, states that nothing in sections 8(1), (2) or (2A) imposes a duty on the Board that is enforceable by proceedings in a court.


Items 9 to 13 - Section 11

9.         These items provide for the establishment, functions and membership of the Rural and Regional Advisory Council.


a.        Item 9 repeals and substitutes subsection 11(1), to require the Board to establish a Rural and Regional Advisory Council that reports to the Board in a similar way as the Advisory Council.


b.       Item 10 inserts subsection 11(3A) setting out the functions of the Council to advise the Board on rural and regional issues in particular and to conduct a biennial survey of regional audiences regarding their satisfaction with services. Furthermore, should a survey have been conducted that year, the results are to be reported in the annual report of that period (see item 18).


c.        Item 11 inserts subsection 11(6A), which requires the Board to have regard, when making appointments to the Rural and Regional Advisory Council, to have regard to the desirability for those on the Rural and Regional Advisory Council to be residents in rural or regional Australia.


d.       Item 12 amends subsection 11(10) to provide that if the Rural and Regional Advisory Council are to be remunerated, the remuneration of those members will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal.


e.        Item 13 inserts in subsection 11(12) the requirement that the Board must have regard to the advice of the Rural and Regional Advisory Council. See item 18, in relation to the requirement to report on these matters.


Item 14 - Subsection 12(5AC)

10.       This item inserts a new subsection 12(5AC), which requires the Board have at least two directors (which may include the Chairperson) who reside in regional areas.


Item 15 - Subsection 27(2)

11.       This item repeals and substitutes subsection 27(2) to include a requirement that the Corporation broadcast at least 5 radio bulletins that consist solely or primarily of regional or local news between 5am and 8pm, at regular intervals.


Item 16 - Section 34

12.       This item inserts a new section 34 relating to the obligations of the Corporation as an employer in regional areas. Firstly, to require the Corporation to roster effectively in emergency broadcasting situations so that production can both ensure community safety and comply with employee health and safety standards. Secondly, to require the Corporation to facilitate employment of a proportion of staff in regional areas. This is in recognition of the Corporation’s mandate to invest in ‘market-failure’ domains for the attached public and social benefits, rather than focusing purely on commercial indicators being the drivers (or withholders) of regional investment.


The remaining items of the Bill insert additional matters for inclusion in the Corporation's annual reports in relation to the activities of the Rural and Regional Advisory Council and the Corporation's activities in regional areas.


Item 17 - Paragraph 80(ea)

13.       This item inserts paragraph 80(ea), being the requirement for the Corporation to report on particulars of any consultation undertaken by the Board with regional employee stakeholders and the Rural and Regional Advisory Council regarding the implementation of any policies affecting regional areas.


Item 18 - Paragraphs 80(h) and (i)

14.       This item inserts paragraphs 80(h) and (i) to require the Corporation to report on the particulars of Rural and Regional Advisory Council advice provided to the Board and the particulars of any biennial regional audience survey results conducted by the Council during the year.


Item 19 - Paragraphs 80(l) to (p)

15.       This item inserts other reporting requirements under paragraphs 80(l) - (p) being significant changes of transmission content in rural and regional areas, particulars of employee locations by base, particulars of employment by type of employment and location of employment, comparison of regional and metropolitan employment figures, ratios of journalists to support staff and the particulars of hours of local rural and regional news broadcasts, aggregated by broadcast area.









Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011



Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment

(Rural and Regional Advocacy) Bill 2015


This Bill is compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.



Overview of the Bill

This Bill amends the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 to insert rural and regional mandate provisions into the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Charter, model employer requirements and to ensure that regional stations are staffed appropriately during natural disasters and emergencies.


Human rights implications

This Bill does not engage any of the applicable rights or freedoms.




This Bill is compatible with human rights as it does not raise any human rights issues.




Senator McKenzie