Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from the Australian Government

Relief for Australian media during COVID-19—Frequently asked questions

The Government has announced a package of measures to sustain Australian media businesses as they do their vital work of keeping the community informed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commercial Broadcasting Tax Rebate

The Commercial Broadcasting Tax is a tax levied on transmitter licences associated with commercial broadcasting licences.

The tax was introduced in 2017 as part of the Government's media reforms to improve the sustainability of Australia's free-to-air broadcasting sector. As part of these reforms,  the Government abolished broadcasting licences fees and datacasting charges and introduced a transmitter licence tax for the use of broadcast spectrum (the Commercial Broadcasting Tax).

This rebate provides commercial broadcasters with a 100% rebate of their Commercial Broadcasting Tax obligations for a period of 12 months. This means that commercial broadcasters will not have to pay this tax for 12 months. For those broadcasters that have already paid tax in the relevant period, they will receive a refund of those amounts.

This rebate will cost $41 million over the 12-month period.

The rebate will apply from 14 February 2020 to 13 February 2021.

The Government's 2017 media reform package introduced changes to broadcasting taxes and charges that saw most commercial broadcasters receive a reduction in the amount of their payments to Government. Transitional support payments were introduced for the small number of commercial broadcasters that would have seen an increase in their liabilities as part of these changes.

For those commercial broadcasters that receive transitional support payments, they will receive a rebate of an amount equivalent to the difference between the amount of tax imposed and the transitional support payment amount they receive in the same financial year.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for administering the Commercial Broadcasting Tax and will administer the rebate.

Public Interest News Gathering program

The $50 million PING program aims to support the continued production of high quality news in regional and remote areas of Australia through provision of financial assistance to media outlets that publish or broadcast public interest journalism. Further details can be found in the Grant Guidelines which are available on GrantConnect

 

Regional newspapers (including online newspapers) and regional commercial television and radio licensees that produce public interest journalism are eligible to apply for grant funding through the program. Further details will be available when we release the Grant Guidelines.

 

 

The PING Grant Guidelines are available through GrantConnect

 

 

Applications are open from 7 May 2020 to 17:00 AEST 29 May 2020.

 

 

 

The PING program and the Innovation Fund 2020 Round are separate programs with separate eligibility criteria.

The Innovation Fund 2020 is open to eligible metropolitan and regional publishers. The PING program is open to regional broadcasters and regional publishers. Eligible regional media publishers may apply for both programs.

 

 

 

 

Any regional publisher or regional commercial television and radio licensee that is registered for GST (with an ABN) can apply for the PING program provided they meet the eligibility criteria.

Public interest journalism seeks to inform and engage the general public—whether at a local, regional or national level—about important issues of the day. Journalism that investigates, reports on and explains public policy or matters of local or public significance, engages citizens in public debate, or informs democratic decision-making is defined as public interest journalism. For the purpose of the PING program, applicants need to demonstrate how they regularly produce public interest journalism with an Australian perspective, with a commitment to accuracy, accessibility and relevance to a broad audience.

Innovation Fund

The Innovation Fund 2020 round is an open competitive grants program designed to support the production of public interest journalism.

The 2020 round is open to regional and metropolitan publishers and content service providers producing public interest journalism. Further information is available on the ACMA’s website: https://www.acma.gov.au/regional-and-small-publishers-innovation-fund

Applications are open for a four-week period from 24 April 2020 to 22 May 2020. The application and processing timeframes are shorter than previous rounds to help business deliver public interest journalism to the community.

The Innovation Fund is part of the Government's Regional and Small Publishers Jobs and Innovation Package (RSPJIP) announced in the 2017 media reform package. Eligible regional and small publishers across Australia can apply for grant money to:

  • Find new ways to work in the modern media environment
  • make their business more sustainable

The Government has released $5 million of the Innovation Fund so that money is available as quickly as possible to help publishers keep journalists in jobs and local communities informed.

The PING program implements the Government's response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Digital Platforms Inquiry to replace the current RSPJIP with a new enhanced grants program for public interest journalism. The PING Fund is a platform neutral program that will directly fund the production of public interest journalism. While the PING Fund will provide substantial support during 2020–21, the Innovation Fund 2020 Round will provide the media sector with immediate relief.

Red tape relief

Commercial television broadcasting licensees are required to broadcast a certain amount of Australian content by satisfying general, overall Australian programming transmission quotas, an Australian advertising quota and genre-specific quotas. The genre-specific quotas relate to Australian drama, Australian documentary and children's and preschool content.

Subscription television broadcasting licensees are required to maintain minimum levels of expenditure on new eligible drama programs.

The disruption of Australia's screen production sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic means commercial and subscription television broadcasting licensees are unlikely to be able to meet all of their existing Australian content obligations.

COVID-19 itself is the major cause of the immediate disruption to the sector, due to social distancing requirements.

The Government anticipates that where possible, broadcasters will continue to commission and broadcast Australian content from the local screen production sector despite the temporary relaxing of requirements.

Commercial television licensees will have temporary relief for Australian drama, Australian documentary and Children’s and Preschool program quota obligations for the remainder of the 2020 calendar year.

This relief will be implemented through the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the Authority) exercising forbearance by not taking enforcement action for non-compliance with the relevant obligations. Specifically:

  • Parts 6 through 9 of the Broadcasting Services (Australian Content) Standard 2016 (ACS), and
  • CTS8(1), CTS8(3), CTS13, CTS 14 and CTS18 of the Children’s Television Standard 2009 (CTS).

Any need to extend this forbearance will be considered by the Authority in consultation with industry over the coming months.

Subscription television broadcasting services will have temporary relief for minimum levels of expenditure on new eligible drama programs where non-compliance is attributable to the impacts of COVID-19 in the 2020 calendar year.

This relief will be implemented through the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the Authority) exercising forbearance by not taking enforcement action for non-compliance with the relevant obligations. Specifically Division 2A of Part 7 (except for Subdivisions H and J) of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

Any need to extend this forbearance will be considered by the Authority in consultation with industry over the coming months.

No, the overall Australian programming transmission quotas for primary channels and multi-channels and the Australian advertising quota will remain in force.

No, local programming obligations that apply to regional commercial broadcasters will remain in force, however these broadcasters will also be eligible for financial assistance under the Public Interest News Gathering program.

Each commercial television broadcasting licensee is required to ensure that the percentage of Australian programs transmitted on its primary channel during targeted viewing hours is not less than 55 per cent of the total hours of programs transmitted during the year (between 6am and midnight).

Commercial television broadcasting licensees are also required to transmit at least 1,460 hours of Australian programming across their non-primary channels (multi-channels) between 6am and midnight.

Commercial television broadcasting licensees are required to ensure that at least 80 per cent of total advertising time in a year, between 6am and midnight, is occupied by Australian produced advertisements.

The Government will work with the ACMA to ensure that protection of children measures will remain applicable where broadcasters continue broadcasting children's and preschool content.

Release of the options paper prepared by the ACMA and Screen Australia

On 12 December 2019, the Government released its response and implementation roadmap to the ACCC's Digital Platforms Inquiry. In its response, the Government committed to a staged process to reform media regulation towards to a platform-neutral regulatory framework covering both online and offline delivery of media content to Australian consumers.

The Government identified Australian content obligations as one of the first issues it would focus on and that it would release an options paper co-authored by the ACMA and Screen Australia to look at how best to support Australian stories on our screens in a modern, multi-platform environment.

This paper has now been released for a two-month consultation period. The Government will work with industry to further explore the issues facing the media and screen production sectors.

The paper will be open for comments for two months. Details of how to comment on the options paper are available on our website. The Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts will also hold a series of industry roundtables.