Australian Government to abolish licence fees as part of revised media reforms | Broadcast | News | Rapid TV News
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The Australian Government has tabled a revised media reforms package that includes the removal of A$130 million in annual licensing fees paid by free-to-air (FTA) broadcasters in favour of new spectrum-based system.

Australian flag 9 May 2017The revised and expanded package, aimed at pleasing major stakeholders, also removes a number of overseas sports competitions from the anti-siphoning list. This will free pay-TV operator Foxtel to bid for rights to show major events such as Wimbledon.

The reforms also impose tighter restrictions on gambling advertising during live sport, and offers some provision to support both women’s sport and Australian produced content.

This is in addition to the original package that repeals the 75% reach rule and two-out-of-three rule, which currently prevent a network operator ‘reaching’ 75% of the population or owning more than two media channels.

“The Turnbull Government has announced a comprehensive package of reforms that will improve the sustainability of Australia’s free-to-air broadcasting sector, support the creation of high quality Australian content and modernise broadcasting and content regulation,” said Australian Communications Minister Mitch Fifield.

“The package provides significant ongoing financial relief, acknowledging that Australia’s broadcasters are facing an increasingly competitive commercial environment, with intense competition for audiences and advertising revenue from other media companies, including global online and on-demand operators.

“The reforms are vital to the long term viability of the sector, which provides access to high quality Australian content that contributes to, and reflects, Australian cultural life.”

FTA broadcasters – Nine Entertainment, Seven West Media, the Ten Network, Southern Cross Media, Prime Media and Bruce Gordon’s WIN Corporation – will no longer have to pay the annual license fee, which will be replaced instead by spectrum charges. The latter will amount to about $40 million a year, compared to $130 million paid annually now.

Free-to-air broadcasters have welcomed the move to abolish the licensing fee and level the playing field with digital platforms based abroad, which are increasingly carrying local advertising without having to pay the same Government dues.

“The Government’s package provides very welcome, immediate financial relief for all commercial free-to-air television broadcasters. It provides a boost for local content and the local production sector,” said Ten’s CEO Paul Anderson.

“Every dollar from today’s changes will be reinvested into our great Australian content and into continuing to enhance our services for viewers across all platforms.

“Recent financial results and announcements from across the Australian media industry clearly demonstrate that this is a sector under extreme competitive pressure from the foreign-owned tech media giants.”

Nine CEO Hugh Marks added that the proposals would help domestic players better compete with global operators in a shifting media landscape.“The move from licence fees to a spectrum use-based fee addresses the onerous and prohibitive charges we have been facing, at a time when our business is competing with global giants who have no such restrictions in our market,” he remarked.

Harold Mitchell, chairman of industry body Free TV, congratulated the Government on the revised package on behalf of Australia’s free-to-air broadcasters.

“Repealing the 75% audience reach and cross media ownership rules is vital for Australian media companies to be able to compete in our modern media environment and we urge the Senate to support the legislation already in Parliament,” he said.