Feb 13, 2013

Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Dividend) Bill 2013 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (09:01): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Dividend) Bill 2013 proposes minor amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992.

This will facilitate the early commencement of telecommunications services in the spectrum identified as the digital dividend, while that spectrum is still considered part of the broadcasting services bands.

In 2010, the Australian government announced its decision to release 126 megahertz of broadcasting spectrum as a digital dividend.

This spectrum is expected to be cleared of all existing services by 31 December 2014.

The release of this broadcasting spectrum is a significant benefit of the digital switchover process.

The auction of this spectrum in April 2013 will pave the way for next generation mobile broadband services in Australia, such as 4G mobile services.

Following completion of the auction, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) may agree to allow successful bidders to commence services prior to the digital dividend spectrum being redesignated out of the broadcasting services bands.

The ACMA will consider applications for this on a case-by-case basis.

To facilitate the potential early commencement of new services, the bill will amend the Broadcasting Services Act to limit the scope of datacasting regulation.

This will ensure that successful bidders are not unduly restricted in the types of services that can be provided in the interim period prior to the relocation of the digital dividend spectrum.

For the foreseeable future, only commercial and national broadcasters are required to hold a datacasting licence for the delivery of datacasting services in broadcasting spectrum.

However, these amendments will not affect the existing regulation that applies to datacasting services currently provided by the commercial broadcasters such as the Seven Network’s 4ME, WIN Television’s GOLD, the Nine Network’s Extra and Network Ten’s Television Shopping Network.

These services will be unaffected by the bill and will be able to continue in accordance with existing datacasting licences.

To achieve this limitation in the scope of datacasting regulation in the Broadcasting Services Act, the bill will introduce the concept of ‘designated datacasting services’.

This is defined as a datacasting service that is provided by a commercial television broadcasting licensee, a commercial radio broadcasting licensee, or a national broadcaster.

The bill will also empower the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy to specify, by legislative instrument, other kinds of services that are also ‘designated datacasting services’.

This will allow flexibility to expand the scope of the datacasting regime if the circumstances warrant.

For example, this may apply where a provider seeks to use broadcasting spectrum to provide a datacasting service that the minister considers should be subject to the conditions of service and codes of practice that apply to licensed datacasting services.

The bill will also make a number of minor consequential amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act and the Radiocommunications Act in order to implement these changes to the datacasting regime.

The bill will amend these acts to refer to ‘designated datacasting services’ where those provisions most appropriately apply to services that are licensed under schedule 6 to the Broadcasting Services Act.

For example, the transmission licences held by commercial broadcasters or national broadcasters that authorise the provision of designated datacasting services.

Similarly amendments to the Radiocommunications Act will also alter some of the statutory conditions of a datacasting transmitter licence to accommodate the transmission of a datacasting service not required to be licensed under the Broadcasting Services Act.

The bill will also repeal a spent provision in the Broadcasting Services Act that refers to a statutory review regarding digital radio that has already been conducted and tabled in parliament.

Datacasting regulation under the Broadcasting Services Act will not apply to any services using digital dividend spectrum after the minister removes this spectrum from the broadcasting services bands.

This is intended to occur after the broadcasting services bands are cleared of digital television services as a result of the restack, which is scheduled for completion by 31 December 2014.

The amendments to communications legislation proposed by this bill will provide certainty and clarity to the conditions that will be placed on the digital dividend spectrum in the interim period prior to its reallocation.

The sale of this spectrum will facilitate the provision of new and exciting services that will greatly benefit all Australians. I commend this bill to the House.


Debate adjourned.