21 December 2007
New local content licence condition for regional commercial radio
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has imposed an additional licence condition on regional commercial radio broadcasters that requires them to broadcast specific levels of local content from 1 January 2008.
The condition requires regional commercial radio broadcasting licensees (licensees) to broadcast from 1 January 2008 the applicable number of hours of local content (‘material of local significance’) between 5 am and 8 pm on business days. The applicable number of hours is three hours for most licences but some classes of licence have a lesser requirement.
The key features of the condition are:
- the requirement for licensees to broadcast the applicable number of hours of material of local significance on business days;
- the definition of ‘material of local significance’ as material that is hosted in, produced in or relates to the licence area. The definition includes advertisements (capped at 25 per cent) and the minimum service standards for local news and information that apply to licences affected by a trigger event;
- record-keeping and annual reporting requirements.
In finalising the condition, ACMA considered representations made by licensees on a proposed licence condition. Significant changes from the proposed licence condition include replacing the requirement to keep written records with compliance statements and the inclusion of explanatory notes to clarify the ambit of material that ‘relates to’ a licence area.
ACMA imposed the condition as the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 requires ACMA to have a local content licence condition in force from 1 January 2008.
Media contact: Donald Robertson, ACMA Media on (02) 9334 7980.
In October 2006, regional protections were introduced into the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the Act) in the form of new local content and local presence obligations for regional commercial radio broadcasting licensees (licensees).
The aims of the new obligations include ensuring regional and rural communities throughout Australia receive programs about matters of local significance and that a local presence is maintained.
Some obligations apply to all licensees, whereas others only apply to licences for which a trigger event occurs. A trigger event is any of:
- a transfer of licence;
- formation of a new registrable media group where a regional commercial radio broadcasting licence is in the group; or
- change of controller of a registrable media group, where a regional commercial radio broadcasting licence is in the group.
Obligations for licences affected by a trigger event
Licensees affected by a trigger event occurring after 4 April 2007 must:
- comply with a licence condition – Broadcasting Services (Additional Regional Commercial Radio Licence Condition – Local Presence) Notice 22 March 2007 - requiring them to maintain an existing level of local presence;
- meet minimum service standards for local news and information specified in the Act. For example, affected licensees must broadcast a minimum of 12.5 minutes of local news between 5 am and 8 pm at least five days a week; and
- file draft local content plans setting out how they will meet the minimum service standards for local news and information.
In accordance with section 43(2) of the Act, ACMA gave licensees written notice of its intention to impose a new local content licence condition and the opportunity to comment on a proposed condition.
ACMA received six submissions and a further submission from Commercial Radio Australia. Substantive issues addressed by submissions included the proposed written record keeping requirement and the proposed meaning of material that ‘relates to’ a licence area. ACMA considered issues addressed in submissions and in some cases incorporated these into the local content licence condition.
Local content licence condition
The local content licence condition is contained in the Broadcasting Services (Additional Regional Commercial Radio Licence Condition – Material of Local Significance) Notice 19 December 2007.
The major features of the licence condition are:
- ‘material of local significance’ is defined as material that is hosted in, produced in or relates to the licence area. Material relates to the licence area if it relates to a range of content matters or if a direct and substantial relationship between the material and the licence area exists;
- material of local significance includes advertisements (capped at 25 per cent) and the minimum service standards for local news and information that apply to licences affected by a trigger event;
- record-keeping requirements (audio for six weeks and publicly available compliance statements) with different requirements for racing service licences; and
- an annual reporting requirement.
Applicable number of hours
The Broadcasting (Hours of Local Content) Declaration No. 1 of 2007 varied the 4.5 hours requirement in the Act to:
- 5 minutes for racing and remote area service licences;
- 30 minutes for small licences and section 40 licences; and
- three hours for all other licences.
Small licences are licences in licence areas with populations of fewer than 30,000 people.
The requirement to broadcast the applicable number of hours of local content commences on 1 January 2008.