Broadcasting pre 2010
Australia's television and radio broadcasting industry is around 70 years old. It has evolved from its early dual system, with 'public' and 'commercial' broadcasters, to a more complex industry with many private, public and non-profit organisations offering television and radio programs funded by advertising, subscription, government appropriation and membership.
The national broadcasters are the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). The ABC was established in 1932, and now provides a national TV service and several national and regional radio networks. SBS was established in 1980, and now provides a national TV service and radio services to much of the population. Both the national broadcasters are statutory corporations which receive the bulk of their revenue from the federal government. SBS also accepts limited advertising on its TV service.
Commercial broadcasters are profit-making private businesses which provide free-to-air TV and radio programs to the general public in the areas they are licensed to serve. They range from the major capital city TV stations to small radio stations serving regional communities. Access to spectrum is by price-based allocation. Commercial broadcasters are funded by advertising revenue. Most commercial television stations are part of one of the three major networks (Nine, Seven, Ten). Commercial radio stations are also increasingly operated as part of national and regional networks of commonly owned and/or programmed stations.
Community broadcasters (initially called 'public broadcasters') joined these two sectors in the 1970s. They are non-profit making organisations which make TV and radio programs available free-to-air to the general public. Access to spectrum is provided through a merits-based process. Some community stations are intended to provide programs of general interest to the whole community within their licence area while others provide special interest programming, such as educational, sporting, religious and Aboriginal programs. Community broadcasters are prohibited from broadcasting advertisements but may provide sponsorship announcements for not more than 5 minutes in any hour.
Subscription broadcasters, subscription narrowcasters, and open narrowcasters were all created as licence categories in the Broadcasting Services Act in 1992. Subscription broadcasting - or pay TV - began operation in Australia in 1996. In late 2002 there were three major operators (Foxtel, Optus Television, and Austar) and several smaller operators. These services are provided via cable, satellite, or microwave service. They derive most of their revenue from the subscription fees of their customers and they may also accept advertising. Narrowcasting services target special interest groups, particular locations or periods of time (a service associated with a particular sporting or cultural event) or certain types of programs. Open narrowcasters do not charge subscription fees.
International services are Australian services targeted to a significant extent to audiences outside Australia.
Datacasting services were designed to be digital broadcasting services providing text, data, speech, music or other sounds or visual images in the form of information programs, educational material, interactive games, electronic mail and some other products. Datacasting services are to be broadcast in the Broadcasting Services Bands, but are excluded from the definition of a broadcasting service in section 6 of the BSA. This licence category was added to the Broadcasting Services Act in 1999 and attracted much criticism owing to the limitations placed on content and genre. It was anticipated that services would commence following an auction of licences in early 2001. However, that auction was cancelled in May 2001 when bidding attracted too few operators with the prospect of little or no competition in various markets. A review of the datacasting scheme conducted by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts in 2002 recommended few changes to the existing scheme.
The planning and licensing of Australian broadcasters and the regulation of such matters as ownership and control, program classification, audience complaints and minimum levels of Australian and children's programs, is dealt with in the Broadcasting Services Act. Separate legislation establishes the national broadcasters.
The most significant recent developments in broadcasting involve the transition to digital television. This transition was achieved largely through the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act 1998 which introduced a new Schedule 4 to the Broadcasting Services Act.
In addition to the creation of datacasting licences, the main features of the digital transition are as follows.
- Digital transmission commenced in metropolitan areas on 1 January 2001 and will commence in regional areas before 1 January 2004.
- There is to be a simulcast period lasting until 2008 for metropolitan areas and until 2012 for regional areas during which programs will be broadcast in both analogue and digital mode. Operators will broadcast in a combination of HDTV (High Definition), SDTV (Standard Definition), and analogue during the simulcast period.
- Digital transmission quotas have been planned, with amendments to be introduced to Parliament in late 2002 providing for an annual quota 1040 hours of HDTV program per year (equivalent to a weekly average of 20 hours per week) to commence from 1 July 2003.
- The existing free-to-air broadcasters have been provided on loan without charge an extra analogue channel to accommodate the necessary bandwidth to transmit their signal in both digital and analogue. This bandwidth must be returned at the end of the simulcast period.
- Both national broadcasters are permitted to 'multi-channel', which means that they can broadcast certain programs (regional matters, educational, science, religious, health and arts-related) via new digital channels that supplement their existing service. The commercial free-to-air broadcasters have very limited rights to multi-channel and provide enhanced digital features. A review of multi-channelling is scheduled for 2005.
- Although commercial broadcasters and national broadcasters are not permitted to hold a separate datacasting transmitter licence (issued by the ACA), they will be permitted to use any residual capacity in their existing digital broadcasting channel to provide datacasting services, by way of a datacasting content licence (issued by the ABA).
- The existing free-to-air channels have been protected from competition by way of a moratorium on new commercial broadcasting licences that lasts until 31 December 2006.
Broadcasting Services Act 1992
Television Licence Fees Act 1964
Radio Licence Fees Act 1964
Datacasting Charge (Imposition) Amendment Act 2000
The Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act 1998
Digital Television Explanatory Memorandum Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act 1998, Explanatory Memorandum. (PDF file)
Digital Television Explanatory & Memorandum Supplement (PDF file)
Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Bill 1998, Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum.
Telecommunications Act 1997
Radiocommunications Act 1992
Telecommunications (Transitional Provisions and Consequential Amendments) Act 1997
Trade Practices Amendment (Telecommunications) Act 1997
Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards ) Act 1999
Broadcasting & Online Legislation
Datacasting Charge (Imposition) Act 1998
Australian Broadcasting Corporations Act 1983
Australian Broadcasting Coporations Regulations
Special broadcasting Services act 1991
Special Broadcasting Services regulations
CLC Submission on Multichannelling by National Broadcasters (Broadcasting)
CLC Submission (PDF file) to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Broadcasting Regulation.
Executive Summary: CLC Submission (PDF file) to the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Broadcasting Regulation.
List of articles published in the Communications Update, written and published by the CLC.
Discussion Paper on Digital Radio Broadcasting in Australia
Review of Radiocommunications Act and Related Legislation
Review of Digital Transmission of Community Television
Department of Communications, IT and the Arts list of Reviews, Reports and Discussion Papers
The Death of Broadcasting? Media's Digital Future (Broadcasting)
CLC Submission on Multichannelling by National Broadcasters (Broadcasting)
Digital D-Day (Broadcasting)
Opinion Piece - Sydney Morning Herald 15 July 1999 (Broadcasting - Radio)
Radio fails to tune into the children (Broadcasting - Radio)
Television Black Spots Program - T2 delivering for communities
Commercial Radio Inquiry 2000
A report of the investigation by the Australian Broadcasting Authority into Sydney Youth Radio Inc and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Broadcasters Inc
ABA - Completed Investigations related to Television
Productivity Commission Final Report on Broadcasting in Australia 2000
Productivity Commission Report - Review of Radiocommunications Acts and of the Market Based Reforms and Activities Undertaken by the Australian Communications Authority
The Age: Digital broadcasting Q & A
ACA -- Broadcasting Licence Paper
Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade - Australia Now: Broadcasting
Metadata - The 'Killer Application' for Digital Broadcasting?
ABA Conference 2002 - What Will Australian Audiences Want?
Television Funding SBS Extensions (Fact Sheet)
International Telecommunications Union picture quality
Overview of Television Black Spots Program guidelines
Community Broadcasting Code of Practice
Subscription Television Broadcasting Codes of Practice
National Public Broadcasting Benefit - Final Report
Audit Report: Broadcasting, Planning & Licensing
Sport - Anti-siphoning Regulation
Geoff Abbott - Trends in Multicultural Australia, Implictions for Australian Content
ABA Investigation - Adequacy of regional television news
ABA Investigation - Inquiry into the future use of a sixth channel
ABA Investigation - Anti-hoarding
ABA Investigation - loud Television Adverisements
DCITA inquiry - Spectrum Management
LinksProductivity Commission Inquiry into Broadcasting Regulation
Report of the Digital Radio Advisory Council
Review of the Role and Functions of the ABC (Mansfield Report)
Digital Television in Australia: Australian Government Policy
Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting in Australia: Final Report of the ABA Specialist Group on DTTB
Australian Broadcasting Authority
Community Broadcasting Association of Australia
The Ethnic News Digest
PBS Digital TV
The Australian Broadcasting Authority
Digital Broadcasting Australia (DBA)
Digital Broadcasting and Datacasting Resources (Federal Parliamentary Library)
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The Special broadcasting Service
SBS Cose of Practice
The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia
The National Competition Council
Entry point to Community Broadcasting Australia
The Community Broadcasting Foundation
ASTRA - the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association
Australian Children's Television Foundation
Digital TV Broadcasting
Young People Into Broadcasting
Commercial radio Australia