On 27 June 2013, the former Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy directed the Australian Communications and Media Authority to investigate the operation and effectiveness of the regulatory arrangements under section 43A of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA), in accordance with the Broadcasting Services (Material of Local Significance – Regional Aggregated Commercial Television Broadcasting Licences) Direction 2013.
The Direction required that the ACMA investigate the operation and effectiveness of section 43A of the BSA, while at the same time having regard to a number of key matters, including:
- the importance of material of local significance to people living in regional areas of Australia
- whether people living in regional areas of Australia have adequate access to material of local significance provided via commercial television broadcasting services
- the impact on people living in regional areas of Australia of recent and significant changes (if any) to the broadcast of material of local significance
- how access to material of local significance can be maintained and enhanced for people living in regional areas of Australia
- whether other sources of local (or regional) information are available to people living in regional areas of Australia
- the economic circumstances facing commercial television broadcasting licensees operating in regional areas of Australia
- whether section 43A should be extended to apply to commercial television broadcasting licensees operating in specified additional regional areas.
The investigation considered data from a wide range of sources, including a consultation process for the regional commercial television broadcasting industry and the public, a series of local content case studies, a Newspoll survey of regional Australia, audience ratings data, an economic analysis, ACMA compliance data and a Google Hangout with industry experts.
The key findings arising from the investigation were that:
- Local content is important and valued by regional Australians.
- Regional Australians are largely satisfied with the current levels of local content available.
- Regional Australians access local content across a wide variety of sources.
- Television is the source most used for regional news, and is the preferred source for local news, although the audience for this is declining.
- There are commercial incentives for some regional broadcasters to provide local content.
- Providing local content on commercial television is a high cost activity and is not necessarily profitable in all markets.
- Funding pressures affecting regional broadcasters are likely to continue.
Ultimately, the investigation found that section 43A was operating effectively in affected regional areas, and that there was no clear case for an extension of section 43A to additional regional areas.
The Ministerial Direction provided that the investigation had to be completed within six months. Accordingly, the investigation was completed on 24 December 2013, with the investigation report and its associated attachments being sent to the Minister for Communications on 6 January 2014.
|Regional commercial television local content investigation report
|Report attachments including research reports
|Attachment A: Ministerial Direction
|Attachment B: Regional Australians access to local content—Community research
|Attachment C: Economic analysis of regional commercial television broadcasters
|Attachment D: Regional Australians television news—Audiences across regional evening news services
|Attachment E: Case study report
|Attachment F: Local content matrix
|Attachment G: List of submitters
|Local content Google Hangout