Interim licence fees regulatory relief | ACMA

Interim licence fees regulatory relief

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR 2016–17

The Radio Licence Fees Regulations 2017 and the Television Licence Fees Amendment Regulations 2017 began on 30 June 2017. They remove the licence fees payable by Australian commercial free-to-air television and radio broadcasters for the 2016–17 financial year. This is a relief measure for that financial year worth around $127 million to the industry. 

The ACMA will therefore not require broadcasters entitled to this interim financial relief to comply with requirements to submit financial returns that might otherwise still apply under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

More information is available below.

Please note that datacasting charges will still apply for 2016–17. Find more information on our Datacasting charge page.  

Interim licence fees regulatory relief

The Radio Licence Fees Regulations 2017 and the Television Licence Fees Amendment Regulations 2017 commenced on 30 June 2017 and have the effect of removing the licence fees payable by Australian commercial free-to-air television and radio broadcasters for the 2016–17 financial year. This is a relief measure for that financial year worth around $127 million to the industry.1

In light of this measure, the ACMA will not require broadcasters who are entitled to this interim financial relief to comply with requirements to submit financial returns that might otherwise still apply under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA).

Background

The Radio Licence Fees Act 1964 (the RLF Act) and the Television Licence Fees Act 1964 (the TLF Act) require commercial radio broadcasting licensees and commercial television broadcasting licensees to pay an annual licence fee in relation to their gross earnings from the broadcasting of advertisements or other matter by services provided under their licences.

Under the RLF Act and the TLF Act, the Governor-General is permitted to make regulations, which, amongst other things, may make provision for rebates of licence fees payable by commercial radio broadcasting licensees and commercial television broadcasting licensees. In that regard, the Governor-General made the Radio Licence Fees Regulations 2017 and the Television Licence Fees Amendment Regulations 2017.

Operation of the Radio Licence Fees Regulations 2017

The Radio Licence Fees Regulations 2017 provide for eligible licensees (the holders of commercial radio broadcasting licences allocated under the BSA) to claim a 100 per cent rebate of radio licence fees payable in relation to the accounting period ending on 31 December 2016, or a day in 2017 other than 31 December (the 2016–17 financial year).

Operation of the Television Licence Fees Amendment Regulations 2017

The Television Licence Fees Amendment Regulations 2017 amend the Television Licence Fees Regulations 1990 to provide for eligible licensees (the holders of commercial television broadcasting licences allocated under section 36, 38A or 38B of the BSA) to claim a 100 per cent rebate of television licence fees payable in relation to the 2016–17 financial year.

Relevant requirements under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992

Part 14A of the BSA sets out provisions governing the administration of the annual licence fees payable by commercial radio broadcasting licensees and commercial television broadcasting licensees (commercial broadcasting licensees) under the RLF Act or the TLF Act.

Section 205B of the BSA requires commercial broadcasting licensees to keep and maintain financial accounts in relation to the service(s) provided under each licence. Commercial broadcasting licensees must make those accounts available for inspection by the ACMA when requested to do so, and provide, within six months after 30 June each year:2

  • an audited balance sheet and audited profit and loss account (each in the form approved by the ACMA), and
  • a statutory declaration from the chief executive officer or company secretary of the licensee stating the gross earnings in relation to the licence during that year.

However, if the licensee qualifies for an exemption under the Broadcasting Services (Licensee Audit Exemption) Instrument 2014, the balance-sheet and the profit and loss account need not be audited.

In addition to the documents provided under section 205B, pursuant to subsection 205C(1) of the BSA, licensees are required to provide a notice accompanying the licence fee paid, in a form approved by the ACMA, stating the manner of working out the broadcasting licence fee payable.

Clauses 7 and 8 of Schedule 2 to the BSA set out standard conditions applying to commercial television broadcasting licences and commercial radio broadcasting licences, respectively. It is a condition of each such licence that the relevant commercial broadcasting licensee comply with the requirements set out in section 205B (see paragraphs 7(1)(ia) and 8(1)(ha)).

Interim regulatory relief to be provided for commercial broadcasting licensees

As commercial broadcasting licensees will be able to claim a 100 per cent rebate under the Radio Licence Fees Regulations 2017 or the Television Licence Fees Regulations 1990 (as applicable) for the 2016–17 financial year, they will not be required to pay any amount of annual licence fee in relation to their licence(s) for that financial year. Nonetheless, the requirements in the BSA governing the administration of the annual licence fee payable by commercial broadcasting licensees will remain in force, meaning that licensees would, absent relief, remain technically obliged to comply with those requirements.

The ACMA takes the view that it would not advance the objects or the regulatory policy of the BSA for the ACMA to require commercial broadcasting licensees who will be receiving a 100 per cent rebate under the Radio Licence Fees Regulations 2017 or the Television Licence Fees Regulations 1990 (as applicable) for the 2016–17 financial year (affected licensees) to comply with the following provisions of the BSA (the financial return provisions):

  • Paragraph 205B(1)(c) and subsections (4) and (4A)—which impose obligations on a commercial broadcasting licensee in relation to the submission of balance-sheets, profit and loss accounts and statutory declarations.
  • Subsection 205C(1) of the BSA—which requires a commercial broadcasting licensee to submit a notice informing the ACMA of the manner of working out the amount of broadcast licence fee paid.
  • Paragraphs 7(1)(ia) and 8(1)(ha) of Schedule 2 to the BSA (but only to the extent that those conditions relate to paragraph 205B(1)(c) and subsections (4) and (4A))—which make compliance with the requirements in section 205B a licence condition for commercial television broadcasting licensees and commercial radio broadcasting licensees, respectively.

The ACMA has formed this view because requiring strict compliance with the financial return provisions could involve significant cost for affected licensees while having little or no other regulatory or practical benefit. The ACMA takes particular account of the financial and administrative burden that affected licensees would bear for the 2016–17 financial year were they required to comply with the financial return provisions in circumstances where they are not liable to pay any annual licence fee.

Please note that this relief does not extend to paragraphs 205B(1)(a), (b) and (d) of the BSA, which require commercial broadcasting licensees to maintain certain records and to make those records available to the ACMA as required. Those provisions continue to apply in accordance with their terms.

Statement of interim regulatory relief for the financial return provisions

The ACMA provides this interim regulatory relief to affected licensees by not requiring them to comply with the financial return provisions for the 2016–17 financial year.

The ACMA notes the following matters in relation to the relief:

  • The relief is specific to, and only applies in, the circumstances set out above.
  • The articulation of the Relief set out in this statement is not legal advice. This statement is an expression of the ACMA’s regulatory intention.
  • The relief may be withdrawn or revised at any time. The ACMA may at any time reconsider its view of the relevant legislation, legislative policy or its administrative policy; and withdraw or revise the relief provided in this statement. In any revision or withdrawal of the relief, the ACMA will consider the consequences for persons who have already acted in reasonable reliance on the relief.

Need further information?

You can contact the ACMA Revenue Assurance team at financialreturns@acma.gov.au or on (02) 6219 5355.

1 Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield, Minister for Communications and the Arts, Interim financial relief for Australian broadcasters as Labor engages in partisanship, 28 June 2017.

2 That is, by 31 December each year unless the ACMA has given the licensee permission to adopt an alternative accounting period.

Last updated: 28 August 2017