Most Read Contributor in Australia, September 2016
The Joint Broadcasting Committee (Committee) of
the Australian Parliament tabled its Three Broadcasting Reform
Proposals report in late June. The Committee has recommended that
the 75% population reach rule applicable to Australian television
broadcasting should be abolished provided there are legal
protections for local content in regional Australia.
The 75% population reach rule in section 53 of the Broadcasting
Services Act 1992 (Cth) (BSA) 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.
In March 2013, the then Communications Minister Senator Stephen
Conroy announced that a parliamentary committee would be
established to consider several areas of potential reform,
including whether the 75% reach rule should be removed.
The case for removing the 75% reach rule
The Committee received submissions from 13 organisations
including all six major television networks. Most, but not all, of
the networks were in favour of abolishing the reach rule.
Some of the major arguments in favour of its abolition are as
The rule "belongs to a different era"
The original idea behind the implementation of the 75% reach
rule, as expressed in the Explanatory Memorandum to the BSA
was: to reflect a recognition that commercial television is highly
regulated, with limits on the introduction of new competition, and
that the pervasiveness of the limited number of sub-services can
have a significant degree of influence on community views.
As has been recognised by the Convergence Review and the
Australian Communications and Media Authority, the current
competitive environment bears little resemblance to the situation
in 1992, when the 75% reach rule was initially implemented by the
In this regard, the Chair of the Committee Senator Doug Cameron
said: "The Internet and converging media are making the
reach rule redundant. For example, commercial television networks
are partners in two of the top three Australian news
No rule that is analogous to the reach rule applies to any of
the services provided by subscription television broadcasters,
telecommunication companies, and internet service providers. These
media providers offer national programming without any restrictions
on audience reach.
The Committee also acknowledged the fact that the internet has
reduced the relevance and effectiveness of the 75 % reach rule. The
internet has made national media outlets accessible across the
whole country. Media and communications are increasingly viewed
nationally, with catch-up television services and online news
websites allowing programming to be viewed by more than 75% of the
population and to bypass geographical borders.
Accordingly, if the 75% reach rule is abolished, the
broadcasting regulations would be more consistent with converging
technology and media.
Increase in efficiencies and economies of scale
One potential result of the abolishment of the 75% reach rule is
an increase in efficiencies and economies of scale as a result of
regional networks merging with metropolitan networks. For instance,
the Nine network advised the Committee that the regional
networks' corporate and operational headquarters are based in
major centres, in particular Wollongong, Sydney and Melbourne.
These are the sites where there would likely be duplication and
where the most efficiencies would be found. Regional staff are
mainly involved in sales and news gathering, which would not be
duplicated with a metropolitan network should there be any mergers
as a result of the reach rule being abolished.
One of the main concerns voiced to the Committee was that the
removal of the reach rule would result in an automatic reduction in
diversity with potentially undesirable implications for regional
Australian broadcasting. The Committee accordingly prefaced its
conclusion that the reach rule should be abolished with the
recommendation that a clear definition of local content needs to be
established which ensures that regional viewers have access to
appropriate levels of high quality, locally devised, and
locally presented programming.
It remains to be seen how these recommended local content
proposals will be implemented and how quickly the incoming
Coalition government will action the proposed reforms. Most
commentators have expressed the view that media regulatory reform
is unlikely to be a high priority of the new government. In
addition, the fact that the National Party is one of the two
parties in the Coalition means that the Committee's concerns
about local regional content are likely to be of great interest to
A copy of the full Committee report is available
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
The issue of recording telephone calls was recently considered in the Federal Court in Furnari v Ziegert  FCA 1080.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).