Communications and the Arts: Investing in Regional Growth—2016-17

The Communications and the Arts portfolio is committed to improving communications services to regional and remote Australia and making government services simpler and more accessible, through the increased availability of digital services. The Communications and the Arts portfolio also supports the achievement of a culturally rich Australia by supporting arts and cultural activities in regional and remote Australia.

Regional communities across Australia are benefiting from a number of initiatives. These initiatives include:

  • providing high-speed broadband at affordable prices, and at least cost to taxpayers as soon as possible to all Australians through the rollout of the national broadband network;
  • improving mobile phone coverage in black spot areas through the Mobile Black Spot Programme;
  • facilitating reforms which will provide increased payments to over 1,600 licenced post offices in remote communities;
  • providing support for digital television services;
  • providing funding support for community broadcasting services;
  • reforming media regulation to remove outdated media control rules and strengthen local content provisions on regional commercial television;
  • supporting the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC's) provision of local news services;
  • maintaining longstanding consumer safeguards relating to access to telecommunications services and undertaking reform of these safeguards; and
  • delivering tailored programmes to support artistic and cultural expression, and participation and access to cultural experiences.

People living in regional areas of Australia are already benefiting from the national broadband network (NBN) with NBN Co (nbn) rolling out its fixed wireless network to more areas and launching the "Sky Muster" satellite service. These technologies will ensure that all of remote and regional Australia will be able to access quality

high-speed broadband services.

The Australian Government's Mobile Black Spot Programme will continue to facilitate infrastructure investment in mobile base stations across Australia, including in regional and remote areas to help improve mobile phone coverage. Round 1 of the programme will enable 499 new or upgraded base stations to be completed and a further $60.0 million for Round 2 of the programme will be made available over two years from July 2016.

The Portfolio also delivers tailored programmes and encourages partnerships that enable the protection, development, production, celebration and exhibition of artistic and cultural expression, and participation and access to cultural experiences.

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New Initiatives

Australian Broadcasting Corporation—Operational Funding

The Government will provide an additional $41.4 million over three years to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), $3.1 billion in base funding over three years, to supplement local news and current affairs services, particularly those located outside the capital cities.

This funding will enable the ABC to maintain its expanded presence and continue to deliver quality news and current affairs services on television, radio, digital and mobile platforms.

This funding will support a range of initiatives, including the continuation of news bureaux in Parramatta, Geelong and Ipswich, and video journalists in Bunbury, Newcastle and Renmark.

Australian audiences in these areas will continue to benefit from this funding which strengthens reporting within local communities and also enables local stories to be shared with national audiences.

Media Reform

On 2 March 2016, the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Media Reform) Bill 2016 was introduced to Parliament. The Bill will repeal the '75 per cent audience reach rule' and the '2 out of 3 rule' and introduce changes that will protect and enhance the amount of local television content in regional Australia.

Much of the regulatory framework governing Australia's media was developed when the industry only had three main media platforms: newspapers, television and radio. The current rules are outdated and prevent traditional media companies from exploring all the options available to grow, move into new areas of activity, and access capital and expertise in other media sectors. Many regional commercial television and radio broadcasters are also under financial strain. These amendments will allow regional commercial television and radio broadcasters to operate more flexibly in the market, and ensure they can continue to provide high quality news and entertainment services.

Communities in regional Australia have told the Government how important it is to maintain locally relevant news and information in the bush. To meet these concerns, stronger local programming obligations will be introduced on regional commercial television broadcasters who, as a result of a change of control of their licences, become part of a television network that reaches more than 75 per cent of the Australian population. In these cases, regional commercial licensees would be required to commence broadcasting additional local programming six months after the change in control. Regional communities also stand to benefit from a new points system which incentivises the local filming of news stories. The new points structure will strengthen the link between local programming and local communities.

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Current Initiatives

Australia's New Broadband Network

The Australian Government is committed to completing the national broadband network (NBN) and ensuring all Australians, regardless of where they live, have access to high-speed broadband as soon as possible, at affordable prices, and at least cost to taxpayers. The Australian Government is providing $29.5 billion in equity funding to roll out the NBN.

Delivering high-speed broadband to people living in remote and regional Australia is a key priority for the Australian Government, and millions of homes across the country will be connected to the NBN. In particular, the world class fixed wireless and satellite rollouts are accelerating. More than 370,000 homes and businesses can now receive a service over the fixed wireless network, and over 100,000 have ordered a service. The satellite rollout has entered an important phase with the successful launch of the "SkyMuster" satellite late last year, and with commercial services available from 29 April 2016. Overall, nbn's satellites will cover 400,000 homes and businesses, with more than 200,000 expected to take up the service.

Regional and remote Australians will have improved access to high-speed broadband services, creating new opportunities in the delivery of health services, distance education and entertainment on-demand. The NBN will also allow businesses in regional and remote areas with an improved opportunity to increase their productivity, reduce costs and access new markets.

Community Broadcasting Program

The Australian Government provides funding to support community broadcasting services throughout Australia via the Community Broadcasting Program. The Community Broadcasting Program is administered at arms-length from the Government by the Community Broadcasting Foundation via a funding deed with the Department of Communications and the Arts. In 2016-17, the Government is providing $15.5 million for the Community Broadcasting Program.

The Community Broadcasting Foundation allocates the Community Broadcasting Program funding to community broadcasters in metropolitan, regional and remote locations around Australia. Grants are allocated in various categories including content development, ethnic, Indigenous, radio for the print handicapped, training, and transmission support. Maintaining longstanding consumer safeguards relating to access to telecommunications services.

The Australian Government continues to facilitate access to telecommunications services across Australia through a range of contractual arrangements. These arrangements ensure that standard telephone services and payphones are reasonably accessible to all people in Australia on an equitable basis. They also ensure access to single national emergency call service and the availability of untimed local calls for customers in extended zones, which are outside of Telstra's standard local call charging zones.

Mobile Black Spot Programme

The Mobile Black Spot Programme is providing $160.0 million from 2015-16 to 2017-18 to improve mobile coverage and competition in regional and remote parts of Australia. Under Round 1 of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, 499 new or upgraded mobile base stations will be deployed across the country. In addition to the $100.0 million in Australian Government funding, co-contributions were received from State and local governments, third parties and mobile network operators for a total funding envelope of $384.7 million. The first base stations started rolling out in December 2015.

The Australian Government has committed $60.0 million towards Round 2 of the Mobile Black Spot Programme, with funding to be made available over two years from July 2016. Round 2 will continue to utilise the database of mobile black spot locations as reported by members of the public. Over 10,600 reported locations have been added to the database which mobile network operators will use to select the locations where they propose to deliver improved mobile coverage through Round 2.

The Round 2 Mobile Black Spot Programme Guidelines released on 26 February 2016 call for mobile network operators to submit their funding proposals by 14 June 2016. The locations of the base stations funded under Round 2 are expected to be announced in the second half of 2016.

Regional Equalisation Plan

The $250.0 million Regional Equalisation Plan commenced in 2000-01 and provides financial assistance for the conversion of commercial analogue television services to digital in regional and remote areas. All relevant services were converted to digital by the end of 2013, and assistance to most affected broadcasters has concluded. However, assistance towards commercial broadcaster operational costs associated with conversion to digital television will continue until 2016-17 at 49 sites in regional and remote Western Australia.

Supporting Regional Post Offices

The post office network provides important services to regional communities. To help ensure the sustainability and viability of licensed post offices in communities across Australia, the Australian Government reformed the postal regulatory framework with effect from January 2016. These reforms enabled Australia Post to boost payments to over 1,600 licensed post offices in regional and remote communities, and around 2,900 licensed post offices nationwide. An average sized licensed post offices will receive an extra $25,000 per annum. Combined with other measures announced by Australia Post over the last two years, this means licensed post offices will receive an additional $125.0 million per annum in total additional payments.

Viewer Access Satellite Television

The Viewer Access Satellite Television programme provides funding to broadcasters to deliver digital free-to-air television services for over 200,000 direct to home satellite users. The Viewer Access Satellite Television service provides free-to-air digital channels from the ABC, Special Broadcasting Service Corporation (SBS) and the commercial broadcasters and, in remote central and eastern Australia, dedicated regional news channels are available which feature the news bulletins of regional commercial television broadcasters.

Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund

The Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund is providing $4.0 million in funding from 2014 to 2018 to support the development, production, presentation, exhibition or performance of arts and culture projects that enhance our understanding of the Anzac legacy. Projects supported through this fund are providing opportunities throughout Australia, including regional locations, for Australians to create and share activities that commemorate Australia's century of service and acknowledge experiences of conflict at home and abroad.

Australia Council

The Australia Council provides significant support to the arts in remote and regional Australia through grants for individuals, groups and organisations, national touring programmes, strategic audience and market development, and capacity building programmes. In 2014-15 the Australia Council invested over $28.9 million into regional arts activity across these programmes. The work reached over 1.5 million audience members and included exhibitions, performances, school activities and workshops across all art forms.

In 2016-17 the Australian Government will allocate $8.0 million for targeted national touring programmes delivered by the Australia Council. These programmes support and promote the work of artists and arts organisations as well as providing access to the arts and increasing audiences throughout Australia, with a particular focus on regional and remote communities.

Regional Arts Fund

The Regional Arts Fund provides support for sustainable cultural development in regional and remote Australia. The programme provides funding for a mix of quick response grants and community grants for arts projects, professional development for artists and arts workers and community capacity building projects. The programme also funds high priority national strategic projects. In 2016-17 the Australian Government will allocate $3.4 million to the Regional Arts Fund. The programme is delivered on behalf of the Australian Government by Regional Arts Australia and peak regional arts organisations in each state and by arts ministries in the territories.

Bundanon Trust

The Bundanon Trust is a wholly owned Australian Government company limited by guarantee and established in 1993 to own and manage the properties and art collection donated by Arthur and Yvonne Boyd "as a means of a gift to the nation". The Bundanon Trust delivers a diverse range of functions such as artists in residence and environmental programmes which have long term cultural, economic and social benefits for the local community in the Shoalhaven region. In 2016-17 the Australian Government will allocate $1.6 million to the Bundanon Trust.

Contemporary Touring Initiative

The Contemporary Touring Initiative is delivered by the Australia Council as part of the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, a formal agreement between the Australian, State and Territory governments to support the Australian contemporary visual arts sector. The Initiative supports the development and touring of nationally significant exhibitions of contemporary visual arts and craft to reach and engage audiences, and extend contemporary visual arts and craft touring across Australia.

Community Heritage Grants

The Community Heritage Grants Programme receives Australian Government funding of approximately $600,000 per annum to deliver grants of up to $15,000 to community groups, including historical societies, regional museums, public libraries and Indigenous and migrant organisations, to support the preservation of publicly accessible heritage collections which are locally owned and nationally significant.

These collections contain a wide range of materials including artefacts, letters, diaries, maps, photographs and audio visual material. First-time recipients also receive expert preservation and archival training at support workshops provided by the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive and the National Museum of Australia. Since 1994, 1,192 projects across Australia have received $5.8 million in funding, almost half of which has gone to regional organisations.

Festivals Australia

Festivals Australia provides access to a diverse range of high quality, innovative arts projects that grow audiences at festivals across regional Australia. In 2016-17 the Australian Government will allocate $1.2 million to support arts projects that encourage partnership and collaboration across the arts sector and encourage community participation in arts activities at festivals in regional and remote areas.

Indigenous Languages and Arts and Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support programmes

The Indigenous Languages and Arts and Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support programmes enrich the social, cultural and economic life of Indigenous communities and provide opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to generate income, gain employment and develop professional skills, while maintaining a continued connection to country and culture.

The Australian Government provides approximately $40 million per annum through these programmes, the vast majority of which supports activities in regional and remote locations.

The Indigenous Languages and Arts programme supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people keep cultural identity strong by providing funding to:

  • revive and maintain Australia's Indigenous languages; and
  • assist communities to deliver diverse arts projects that showcase, protect and encourage participation in traditional and contemporary Indigenous artistic expression.

The Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support programme supports a professional, viable and ethical Indigenous visual arts industry, with strong participation by and employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Indigenous Visual Arts Industry Support programme contributes to the operations of around 80 Indigenous-owned art centres, most in very remote areas, as well as a number of art fairs, regional hubs and industry service organisations that are at the heart of Australia's internationally renowned Indigenous visual art movement. Together these organisations enable the development, production and marketing of Indigenous visual art, and provide opportunities for more than 8,000 Indigenous artists and over 300 Indigenous arts workers to generate income and participate in the nation's economy.

Indigenous Repatriation

This programme facilitates the return of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestral remains in overseas collections, and ancestral remains and secret sacred objects held in major government funded museums, to their communities of origin. Many of these communities are located in regional Australia.

Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme

Many cultural institutions and community organisations around Australia care for maritime items of historical and national significance. The Maritime Museums of Australia Project Support Scheme is a grants programme which collects, conserves and exhibits Australia's rich maritime heritage by helping these groups undertake this important role.

The Scheme is jointly funded by the Australian Government and the Australian National Maritime Museum and provides grants up to $10,000 to cultural institutions and community organisations for collection management initiatives, including documenting and caring for collections; and presentation projects, including education programmes and workshops.

More than 75 per cent of the grants funded under the Scheme in the 2015-16 financial year to date, were provided to projects and institutions located in regional Australia. 68 per cent of applications were from institutions located in regional Australia.

National Collecting Institutions Regional Outreach

Engagement with rural and remote communities is a longstanding priority for all the cultural and collecting institutions. The national collecting institutions provide a variety of initiatives through a combination of on-site offerings, as well as physical and virtual outreach activities. These include travelling exhibitions, loans of collection objects, online access to education programmes and digital content, professional guidance and support to regional museums and fellowships.

National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach programme

The National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach programme provides funding of $1.0 million per annum to assist the National Collecting Institutions in the development and touring of their collections within Australia. The aim of the programme is to:

  • enhance access for all Australians to the national collections, with a particular emphasis on providing access for audiences in regional Australia;
  • promote Australia by supporting works from Australian national collections to tour overseas; and
  • attract smaller international collections to tour to multiple venues, particularly in regional Australia.

Since the inception of the programme in 2009-10, the Australian Government has funded $7.0 million towards the development and/or touring of 59 exhibitions to over 150 venues.

National Touring Programmes

In 2016-17 the Australian Government will continue to support the national touring programmes, which assist and promote the work of artists and arts organisations as well as providing access to the arts and increasing audiences throughout Australia, with a particular focus on regional and remote communities.

The Visions of Australia Regional Exhibition Touring programme provides $2.4 million annually towards the costs of developing and touring exhibitions of cultural material that has historic, scientific, design, social or artistic significance. The Visions of Australia Regional Exhibition Touring improves access for Australians in regional and remote areas to Australian cultural material.

Playing Australia is a regional performing arts touring fund that supports costs associated with national tours of performing arts, with a focus on access to the arts for regional and remote communities across Australia. Playing Australia includes the National Touring Status initiative, which was recently created based on consultation with the arts sector. The initiative is designed to enhance the development and engagement of regional and remote audiences through longer term partnerships with presenters. These grants enable the funded companies to plan and present a

longer-term regional touring and engagement strategy for their 2015-17 touring programmes. The National Touring Status grant applicants were able to apply for up to $400,000 per annum.

The Contemporary Music Touring programme supports national touring activity undertaken by Australian musicians performing original contemporary music. It provides travel support of up to $15,000 for artists and their manager for tours in Australia that include performances in regional and remote areas. An additional request of up to $15,000 can be sought for tours to remote and very remote areas.

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