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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3033 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

Do the recommendations of the Australian Broadcasting Authority support the government's submission that commercial networks have an obligation, under the terms of their licences, to provide local news services? Is the Chief Minister confident that the ABA's proposed new licence condition will see news services restored to Capital and Prime in Canberra?

MR STANHOPE: Thank you very much, Mr Hargreaves. This is a very important issue, as members know. I am aware of the concern of all members in relation to this issue.

The Australian Broadcasting Authority launched an inquiry into the adequacy of local news and information programs on regional commercial TV stations in November 2001. The inquiry was instituted following the closure of newsrooms in Canberra, Cairns, Townsville, Darwin and Alice Springs by Southern Cross Broadcasting-the operators of Capital Television in Canberra-and in Canberra, Wollongong and Newcastle by Prime TV.

In the space of six months, Canberra lost two of its three commercial television newsrooms-and this was before the ABC restored its local television news service. There was significant local community protest at the closure of the newsrooms, leading to the ABA inquiry.

In the course of that inquiry, the ABA called for submissions and held public meetings in a number of locations, including Canberra. The ACT government was one of more than 120 interested parties to make a submission to the inquiry.

In its submission, the government argued that the ABA:

recognise the significant impact the loss of local commercial television news services has had on the community of the ACT and the Australian capital region;

recognise that the decreasing diversity of media in the ACT and region is of concern to the community and the government;

recognise that spectrum is a public asset, and that licences to use such spectrum entail community obligations;

consider the nature of the supply arrangements between major networks and regional broadcasters, with a view to determining whether coercive or anti-competitive practices have been or are used;

recognise that the regional television broadcast market is now considerably imbalanced, and that providers of local news services may suffer commercially, further impacting on the viability of their news services;

strongly enforce the regulatory regime, or seek to strengthen it, with a view to ensuring that local television news services are properly provided by all regional broadcasters;

make public, through its website and print material, the conditions under which broadcast licences are granted, and directions given to broadcasters and the guidelines to which they must adhere; and

consider the most appropriate avenues through which complaints from the community can be managed, and through which ongoing community consultation and participation can be facilitated.

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