The Federal Government's initial response to the
Convergence Review Final Report deals with television broadcasting
licence fees, Australian content requirements and the 75% audience
The Federal Government's initial response to the Convergence
Review Final Report was released last Friday, dealing with issues
such as television broadcasting licence fees, Australian content
requirements and the removal of the 75% audience reach rule.
However, the package is only a partial response to the broad
ranging recommendations made by the Convergence Review Committee,
with the Federal Government's consideration of the final report
stated to be continuing.
Media ownership is one area of reform which has largely been
left for another day, with the exception of the removal of the 75%
audience reach rule. We are yet to see the Federal Government's
response on widely debated recommendations such as the public
interest test with respect to a change of control of a content
service enterprise of national significance.
Television broadcasting licence fees to be reduced
The current rebate on television broadcasting licence fees
(which expired on 30 June 2012) will be extended for a period of 12
months, with immediate effect. The extended rebates will apply for
the financial year 2012-13 and will be followed by a permanent
reduction in television broadcasting licence fees by 50 percent, to
a maximum of 4.5% of revenue.
Media ownership reforms
The 75% reach rule will be removed. This rule currently
prohibits a person from being in a position to exercise control of
commercial television broadcasting licences whose combined licence
area populations exceed 75% of the population of Australia. There
are corresponding rules in respect of directorships.
The removal is stated to be subject to the approval of
Parliament and to adherence by the commercial television
broadcasters to existing local content obligations in regional
areas and written undertakings in respect of those obligations.
Australian content requirements to apply from 1 January
Retention of the current requirement that all commercial
television broadcasting licensees broadcast an annual minimum
transmission quota of 55% of Australian programming between 6 am
and midnight in respect of broadcasters' primary channels.
Introduction of greater flexibility into current sub-quota
arrangements, which currently set specific minimum annual
sub-quotas for Australian (adult) drama, documentary and
Introduction of a new multichannel Australian content
requirement for each commercial television broadcaster, under which
commercial television broadcasters will be required to broadcast
730 hours of Australian content in 2013, increasing to 1095 hours
in 2014 and to 1460 hours in 2015. The content requirement will
comprise an incentive for first-release drama by allowing an hour
of first release drama premiered on a digital multichannel to count
for two hours under the transmission hours requirement for
There has also been an announcement that there will be public
consultations in early 2013 on how captioning levels will be
increased on multichannels following digital switchover.
No spectrum or broadcast licences will be made available to a
fourth free-to-air television network. The longer term potential
uses for the spectrum will be further considered.
The legislation required to implement these reforms is scheduled
to be developed by March 2013 and will comprise transitional
arrangements in respect of the Australian content requirements.
A firm timeframe for response on the remaining issues addressed
in the Convergence Review Final Report has not been set, but the
Federal Government has indicated further announcements will be made
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide
commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon
as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular
transactions or on matters of interest arising from this bulletin.
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