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What media reforms are proposed in the Green Paper?

Spectrum reform

The key reform proposal relates to technical changes in the way broadcasting content might be delivered. Australian broadcast television is delivered using ‘spectrum’, and there is only a finite amount of spectrum available. Currently, all of the available spectrum is being used for free-to-air television broadcasting.

However, new digital broadcasting technology means less spectrum can now be used to deliver the same broadcasting services. The Government would like television broadcasters to work together to use less spectrum because:

  • If enough broadcasters agree to broadcast on less spectrum, there will be more free spectrum available to be used for other purposes. One of these potential purposes is to reallocate that spectrum to improve telecommunications networks in currently underserviced areas.
  • Because the amount of spectrum available is finite, it is a valuable asset. The Government could auction off this spectrum for a profit, which it says could then be re-invested. A fund could be established to support more regional news and more Australian drama, documentary and children’s content.
  • For example, the profit could be invested in more local news services in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia, and/or local television and film content production. The Green Paper doesn’t specify how much of the profit would be invested in local and regional news, or Australian content production.

 

Local content regulation

The Green Paper proposes to make the laws regulating different kinds of television broadcasting the same across the board to make competition fairer. Online streaming platforms and traditional television networks will have equal obligations to produce and screen local television content.

The public broadcasters, ABC and SBS, will also have increased responsibility for creating and screening Australian content.

Impact of media reform proposals on consumers

The Government hopes that the Green Paper proposals will have a positive flow-on effect for consumers in terms of the range of media that is available and accessible to them.

However, the Green Paper also acknowledges some potential consumer detriments created by the adoption of the new broadcasting technology, specifically:

  • Older Australians, the less affluent and those in regional and remote areas are less likely to use alternatives to free to air television, such as subscription streaming services, and would be disproportionately affected by the withdrawal of free-to-air services.
  • Some household equipment and most broadcast transmission equipment would no longer be suitable and would require expensive replacement and upgrade.
  • The proposed changes to broadcasting technology would only offer “similar” levels of broadcasting quality, which may not be as good.
  • The proposed changes to broadcasting technology would limit the scope for any future improvement of television picture quality, or the launch of any new broadcasting services.


Some concerns ACCAN has about the shift to more internet-based media services, and more restricted free-to-air broadcasting channels, are:

  • People living in areas which are disaster prone and rely on local news updates to know what to do in the event of natural disasters will not have access to life-saving information if they don’t have the new technology or internet access.
  • People without access to the internet, who don’t feel comfortable with modern technology or can’t afford to upgrade, will have restricted access to the news and television services they once would have accessed for free.
  • People without internet access and/or internet enabled devices, and those who can’t afford to upgrade their technology, may be cut off from important local and national news and cultural events and become socially isolated.


ACCAN is seeking input from all consumer groups about the potential impact of the proposed media reforms on a wide range of communities and consumer groups including:

  • CALD
  • Disability
  • Indigenous
  • Regional Rural & Remote
  • Seniors