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Media control rules

We monitor and enforce the rules on the control of media in Australia.

The rules for control of media in Australia are in the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (BSA).

Statutory control rules

Limitations on control of media

No person can be in a position to exercise control of:

  • more than one commercial TV broadcasting licence in the same licence area and a director of a company that is in control of another commercial TV licence
  • more than 2 commercial radio broadcasting licences in the same licence area
  • a commercial TV broadcasting licence or a datacasting transmitter licence

No person can be the director of a company or companies that control:

  • more than one commercial TV broadcasting licence in the same licence area
  • more than 2 commercial radio broadcasting licences in the same licence area and another commercial radio licence (or visa versa)
  • a commercial TV broadcasting licence and a datacasting transmitter licence

No person can be a director of 2 or more companies which between them exceed these limits.

Exceptions to control rules

In licence areas where there is only one commercial TV broadcasting licence, we may allow that licensee to provide a second service.

In licence areas where there are 2 commercial TV broadcasting licences, we may allow those licensees to provide a third commercial TV broadcasting service.

The statutory control rules do not apply to broadcasting licences allocated under section 38C or section 40 of the BSA.

Foreign ownership and control

The BSA does not restrict foreign control of commercial broadcasting licences or foreign directorships in companies in control of licences. Foreign ownership of Australian media assets is regulated by the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act 1975 and Australia’s Foreign Investment Policy.

The Register of Foreign Owners of Media Assets has information about foreign persons with company interests of 2.5% or more in an Australian media company.

Media diversity rules

Media operations

The BSA defines a media operation as:

  • a commercial TV broadcasting licence
  • a commercial radio broadcasting licence
  • an associated newspaper—a newspaper that's associated with the licence area of a commercial TV or commercial radio broadcasting licence

Media groups

A media group is defined in the BSA as a group of 2 or more media operations.

A registrable media group is a media group of 2 or more operations, where:

  • a person is in a position to control each of those media operations
  • each of those media operations complies with the statutory control rules
  • if a commercial TV broadcasting licence is in the group, more than 50% of the licence area population of the first radio licence area is in the licence area of the commercial TV broadcasting licence
  • if a commercial radio broadcasting licence is in the group, the first radio licence area is the same as, or within, the licence area of the licence
  • if a newspaper is in the group, it is associated with the first radio licence area

In the media diversity scheme, a registrable media group counts for one point. A media operation that is not part of a media group is also worth one point.

Controllers of media operations and media groups

A controller of a media group is a person who controls each operation in the media group.

If there is a change in control of a media operation, you must notify us. If the change forms a registrable media group, we will enter the group in the Register of Controlled Media Groups.

Changes in control may also ‘trigger’ requirements relating to local presence and local content for regional commercial radio.

Register of Controlled Media Groups

The Register of Controlled Media Groups (RCMG) contains all registrable media groups in each radio licence area. The RCMG lists the media operations that form part of a group and the controllers of those operations.

The media control database has more information in an interactive form. It has information about ungrouped or independently owned media and a guide to the number of points in each radio licence area. It also identifies commercial TV services that pass the shared content test.

Unacceptable media diversity situation

This ties into the points scheme in the BSA.  It depends on whether the commercial radio broadcasting licence area is metropolitan or regional.

An unacceptable media diversity situation will exist in a:

  • metropolitan licence area of a commercial radio broadcasting licence if the number of points in the radio licence area is less than 5
  • regional licence area of a commercial radio broadcasting licence if the number of points in the licence area is less than 4

The ban on transactions that create an unacceptable media diversity situation is also called ‘the 4/5 rule’.

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