Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Broadcast and Content Reform Package

The Government is putting a comprehensive package of reforms in place that will support Australia's broadcast sector. 

This will reduce the exposure of children to gambling advertising and ensure the creation of high-quality Australian and children’s content.

broadcast and content reform infographic showing 4 main branches. 1-Abolishing broadcasting licence fees. 2-Charging broadcasters a spectrum fee. 3-Protecting children from gambling ads. 4-Review of Australian and children's content.

Broadcast and content reform package

The Government's comprehensive package of reforms will improve the sustainability of Australia's free-to-air broadcasting sector, protect children from exposure to gambling advertising and support the creation of high quality Australian content. Other elements of the package include adjustments to the anti-siphoning regime, abolition of outdated media ownership rules and providing funding to support under-represented sports on pay TV.

The Government will also implement the $60 million Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package.

Regional and small publishers jobs and innovation package

Why do we need these programs?

The media industry is in significant transition and this poses challenges for small publishers and small regional newspapers in particular. The business models that have traditionally supported journalism—particularly those funded by advertising revenue—are being challenged, and the need to adapt successful subscriber and revenue models is proving especially demanding for smaller publications. The provision of quality journalism is under pressure.

  • Quality journalism is an important feature of our democracy, and access to locally relevant factual journalism is vital to developing and maintaining strong regional communities.

     

  • Effective journalism also plays a vital role in holding our institutions to account and creates a framework in which complex issues can be understood, offering the public reliable information to support decisions in political, economic and social life.

The Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package will assist small publishers to adapt to the challenges of the contemporary media environment, create employment opportunities for cadet journalists, and support regional students to study journalism.

More information about the scholarships and cadetships can be found on our innovation page.

Broadcast Pricing Reforms

Legislative reform is needed to ensure the ongoing viability of Australian broadcasters. The past decade has seen the growth of online service providers challenging the traditional business model of Australian broadcasters for audiences and advertising revenue. Australian audiences now have more viewing opportunities than ever, being able to select from multiple services including free-to-air television, pay TV, catch up TV, streaming services, subscription video on demand and user generated video. This has led to a fragmentation of audiences and the erosion of advertising revenue for commercial broadcasters as they compete with online content providers.

The Government's reform package acknowledges the growing commercial pressure on Australia's free-to-air broadcasters and also their important role in providing Australian content that both informs and reflects Australian cultural life.

To assist broadcasters to compete in the modern media environment, the Government is abolishing broadcasting licence fees and introducing a price for the use of broadcast spectrum that more accurately reflects its use. Spectrum is essential to a digitally networked economy and a major contributor to Australia's economic and social wellbeing. It is critical infrastructure enabling production for industrial, commercial, educational and other social services. The move to a spectrum price for broadcasters recognises the value of this important resource.

Restrictions on gambling advertising

The package will also further restrict gambling advertising and promotions during live sports programs to reduce the exposure of children to gambling. The restrictions will prohibit all gambling promotions from five minutes before the scheduled start of play in all live sports broadcasts to five minutes after the conclusion of play or to 8:30pm. Importantly, the restrictions will apply to commercial television and radio, subscription television and radio, the Special Broadcasting Service, and online platforms that are aimed at Australian audiences.

A clear and practical 'safe zone' is also being established on any platform for children watching or listening to sport, which is straightforward for parents and carers to observe. The reforms will be given effect via changes to the various broadcast industry Codes of Practice.

Reducing gambling advertising in this way has widespread community support, based on concern that exposing children to gambling advertising (such as sports betting) could position gambling as a normal part of the sports viewing experience. The reforms will reduce the exposure of children to gambling advertising while ensuring that Australian broadcasters have continued access to an important revenue stream.

Supporting the development of Australian content

In a globally connected, on-demand world it is vital that Australian stories are told and are heard by Australians, in particular our children, and across the world. Many of the current production and distribution incentives introduced to support this content were developed more than a decade ago and do not fully reflect changing consumption patterns, methods of delivery or business models.

The Department of Communications and the Arts, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, and Screen Australia are undertaking a joint review of the support measures in place for producing and delivering Australian and children's screen content, to determine if these remain fit for purpose in the new multi-platform environment that has emerged since these measures were established. A key objective of the review is to ensure that Australia's screen industry is positioned to continue to provide quality Australian and children's content across the range of platforms and services now enjoyed by domestic audiences.

Amending the Anti-Siphoning Scheme

Australia's anti-siphoning scheme has also been amended to remove outdated and redundant provisions and streamline the anti-siphoning list. These changes will enable the scheme to operate more effectively in a digital media environment while ensuring that events of national and cultural significance continue to be available on free-to-air television.

The changes include removing the rule that prevents free-to-air broadcasters from televising events on their digital multichannels only. This rule was put in place prior to the widespread adoption of digital TV, when digital multichannels were not widely available to the community.

The scope of the list will also be reduced to encourage increased competition between subscription broadcasters and free-to-air television for the rights to air programs.

There will also be more opportunities for subscription broadcasters to acquire event rights by increasing the time out from broadcast that events will be removed from the list from 12 to 26 weeks.

Funding for Under-represented Sports

The Australian Government has provided $30 million to Foxtel from 2017–18 to 2020–21 to support television and online coverage of sports that receive low or no broadcast exposure: women's sports, niche sports, and sports that command high levels of community involvement and participation.

In July 2020, the Australian Government committed an additional $10 million in funding to Foxtel to continue its support of broadcasting coverage of these under-represented sports over the next two years. This brings total funding for the under-represented sports grant to $40 million over six years.

The expansion and extension to the initial grant is enabling Foxtel to continue to develop and enhance its relationships with relevant sporting bodies. It will also assist sporting bodies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions to the various codes and competitions as well as supporting an ongoing audience for under-represented sports, increasing exposure and influence of those sports to a wider Australian audience. This is building on Foxtel’s strengths and proven track record in sports broadcasting through its linear and on-demand subscription television services.

The initial phase of the program has been highly successful, with more than 4,700 hours of content broadcast during the 2020-21 financial year, which represents an 85 per cent increase on broadcast hours compared with the number of broadcast hours during the 2016-17 financial year. In the 2020-21 financial year, 25 different competitions have benefited, with 8 new programs, events or sports that received coverage or were developed under the Grant.

Foxtel has worked closely with a range of sports bodies and rights holders to establish partnerships to assist the sports beyond just improving their coverage. This includes:

  • showcasing a month-long schedule of women’s sports programming on a special pop-up channel FOXW (Channel 511) in celebration of women’s sport from 1 April to 30 April, including live coverage of women’s sports and supporting programming.
  • live broadcasting of The Athena, the WPGA’s inaugural women’s two-day golfing competition, on Foxtel and Kayo Sports.
  • live broadcasting of the three-day Wheelchair Rugby National Championship event on Foxtel and Kayo Sports.

Further details on Foxtel's performance during the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-2020 financial years, and the sports that received additional coverage in 2020-21, are set out in the fact sheets below.

Under-represented Sports Funding Agreement

The agreement governing the terms of the initial four-year grant was formalised between the Commonwealth and Fox Sports in December 2017. This agreement was varied in September 2020 to provide for additional funding and to impose additional reporting obligations on Fox Sports in respect of the expanded and extended program to increase television and online coverage of under-represented sports. The agreement was varied again in March 2021.

Under-represented Sports Grant Guidelines

Guidelines developed in 2017 in relation to the initial grant were recently amended to support the provision of a further $10 million in funding to expand and extend the original program. These guidelines were developed and amended consistent with the Commonwealth grant policy framework under the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines (CGRGs).

Requests for an accessible version of the funding agreement or the grant guidelines should be directed to the department through email: media@infrastructure.gov.au.

Updating Australia's media laws

The Government has delivered the most significant reforms to Australia's media laws in a generation, supporting the viability of our local organisations as they face increasing global competition in a rapidly changing digital landscape. More information about the reforms can be found at: mediareform.communications.gov.au.

Where to from here?

Overall, the reforms will strengthen Australian broadcasters, enabling them to invest in their businesses and better compete with online content providers. The underlying objective is to ensure ongoing investment in, and access to, high quality Australian content and the support of Australia’s broadcasting sector that delivers it. The Government thanks the broadcasting sectors for its constructive cooperation and assistance during the development of these reforms.