From 1 January 2008, regional commercial radio broadcasting licensees must broadcast specified levels of material of local significance.
Since 4 April 2007, regional commercial radio broadcasting licensees must maintain a local presence and comply with minimum service standards following a ‘trigger event’. A trigger event is the transfer of the licence, the formation of a new registrable media group or the change of controller of a registrable media group.
Applying the new rules
The rules apply to regional commercial radio broadcasting licences, that is, commercial radio broadcasting licences with a licence area that is not a metropolitan licence area. A metropolitan licence area is described in section 43C of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.
Local content levels
- To comply with section 43C of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the ACMA imposed a local content licence condition on all regional commercial radio broadcasting licences. The licence condition is contained in the Broadcasting Services (Additional Regional Commercial Radio Licence Condition – Material of Local Significance) Notice 19 December 2007.
- This licence condition applies from 1 January 2008 and requires the broadcast of the applicable number of hours of material of local significance during daytime hours (5 am to 8 pm) each business day. The applicable number of hours is: 5 minutes for racing and remote area service licences, 30 minutes for small and section 40 licences, and three hours for all other licences.
- The licence condition defines local content (‘material of local significance’) as material that is hosted in, produced in, or relates to the licence area.
- In the first half of 2007, the ACMA investigated local content levels on regional commercial radio. The ACMA consulted with regional commercial radio broadcasting licensees for its investigation and reported on its findings on 29 June 2007. The Local Content Levels Investigation Report was tabled in Parliament on 13 September 2007.
Effective from 1 April 2007, the ACMA imposed a local presence licence condition on regional commercial radio broadcasting licensees – the Broadcasting Services (Additional Regional Commercial Radio Licence Condition – Local Presence) Notice 22 March 2007.
Before imposing the condition, the ACMA consulted all regional commercial radio broadcasting licensees and industry groups about the proposed licence condition. As a result of submissions received, ACMA made some significant changes to the local presence licence condition.
The local presence licence condition requires:
- all licensees to keep records of existing level of local presence from 1 April 2007; and
- licensees affected by a trigger event after the proclamation date of 4 April 2007 to maintain the existing level of local presence (defined by reference to staffing levels and studios and other production facilities).
- Since 4 April 2007, following a trigger event, affected licensees must meet minimum service standards for local news, local weather, local community service announcements, emergency warnings and, where applicable, designated local content programs.
- After a trigger event, affected licensees must also give the ACMA a draft local content plan within 90 days. The local content plan must set out how the licensee will comply with the minimum service standards. The plan is subject to approval by the ACMA. Once approved, the licensee must take all reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the plan, and submit an annual compliance report.
- In early 2007 the ACMA investigated whether the definition of trigger event may lead to unintended consequences. The ACMA consulted with industry for its investigation and reported on its findings on 30 March 2007.
- On 22 November 2007 the ACMA made a legislative instrument defining ‘local’ as the licence area for the purpose of administering minimum service standards for local news and information that apply to licences affected by a trigger event.
Consequences of failing to comply with obligations
Failure to comply with these new rules will amount to a breach of licence condition. The ACMA may take enforcement action on any breach. Enforcement actions available to the ACMA will include the issue of remedial directions, or the acceptance of enforceable undertakings.
For further information, go to www.acma.gov.au/mediareform.
Tel: (02) 9334 7941
To receive an email alert when the ACMA publishes a new fact sheet on media reform, or updates an existing fact sheet, you can subscribe at www.acma.gov.au/interforms/media_reform.htm.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.