Local content conditions on regional commercial television broadcasters
On 7 April 2003, the former Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) introduced a local content licence condition for regional commercial television broadcasters in four aggregated markets; broadcasters in the licence areas of Northern New South Wales, Southern New South Wales, Regional Victoria and Regional Queensland were required to meet local content obligations from 1 February 2004.
The imposition of the licence condition in 2003 was in response to an investigation carried out because of community concerns about the closure of news bureaus by Southern Cross Broadcasting in Canberra, Cairns, Townsville, Darwin and Alice Springs and the cutting of local news bulletins in Canberra, Newcastle and Wollongong by Prime TV. See 2004 Investigation Report (PDF, 2.7mb) and 2002 Investigation Report (PDF, 1mb).
New local content conditions - 1 January 2008
From 1 January 2008, as part of the changes introduced by the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Media Ownership) Act 2006, the ACMA must ensure that specified regional commercial television broadcasting licensees in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, broadcast at least minimum amounts of material of local significance. Whereas the previous licence condition was imposed at the discretion of the ACMA, the new licence condition is a statutory requirement. In addition, Tasmanian licensees are required to meet local content requirements for the first time.
The requirements of the new condition do not materially alter the requirements of the previous condition for those licensees who were obligated to comply with the previous condition. Further detail can be found in the fact sheet FS 116 - New licence conditions imposed on regional commercial television broadcasters.
Requirements of the local content condition
The new licence condition was imposed by the Authority on 8 November 2007 and came into effect on and from 1 January 2008, revoking the previous licence condition.
The licence condition requires all regional commercial television licensees in the five aggregated markets (including Tasmania) to broadcast material of local significance, within each specified local area, to meet minimum quotas comprising:
- a minimum of 720 points per six-week period; and
- a minimum requirement of 90 points per week.
On account of low take-up rates of digital receivers among consumers in Tasmania, the ACMA has granted alternative treatment to Tasmanian Digital Television (TDT) for a limited period as an interim measure. From 1 January 2008 TDT is required to meet minimum quotas comprising:
- a minimum of 120 points per calendar year.
A separate licence condition has been imposed to reflect these alternative arrangements for TDT. This treatment will apply for a finite period of time, until the earlier of:
- the Saturday immediately following switch-off of analog television services in the Tasmanian licence area; or
- 31 December 2012.
Note that the date of analog switch-off is not yet known. At the appropriate date, TDT will be required to comply fully with the local content requirements imposed on other licensees as outlined above.
The test of whether material is of local significance combines the subject and the way in which the subject is presented. Material must have a local emphasis to qualify as 'material of local significance'. Schedule 3 of the licence condition provides further detail to illustrate the application of this definition.
ACMA has adopted a compliance strategy consisting of self-reporting of points, licensee education and consultation, and targeted audits. The self-reported compliance results are available on the ACMA website.
Evaluation of the implementation of the local content condition
Following the first full year of the operation of the former licence condition that took effect in February 2004, the ACMA commissioned an independent preliminary evaluation of how the condition had been implemented. The intention of the preliminary evaluation was to gather information about the effectiveness of the implementation process and to ensure that the requirements were understood.
The 2005 evaluation found that all licensees were meeting their points quotas under the licence condition. It also concluded that the condition had been effective in generating local programming, in that each of the audited licensees succeeded in generating sufficient points to comply with the condition's local area broadcast requirements.
A number of implementation issues were identified in the evaluation on which further improvement could be made. Licensees also provided feedback to the ACMA on their experiences in applying the condition's requirements. View the report abstract.
In May-June 2007, the ACMA engaged two external consultants to conduct three audit projects which confirmed compliance by all three licensees. View the 2007 audit report.
Prior to finalising the new licence conditions imposed in November 2007, the ACMA invited written submissions from affected licensees and the public and gave careful consideration to the issues raised. The consultation period closed on 21 September 2007 and a summary of the responses the ACMA received and copies of submissions can be viewed on the submissions page.