Press release from Minister Stephen Conroy

The Government will protect Australian content on commercial television by offering licence fee rebates to broadcasters in 2010 and 2011, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, announced today.

Senator Conroy said the rebate recognised the importance of the Australian Content Standard in ensuring TV audiences have strong levels of Australian programs.

The rebate is also in recognition of the current level of licence fees in Australia compared with other countries such as the US, UK and Canada, and the new technology and commercial challenges facing the sector, including the switch to digital television.

The initiative builds on the Government’s funding increase for the ABC and SBS in the 2009-10 Budget to fund Australian content on the national broadcasters.

The Australian Content Standard requires commercial television broadcasters to produce and screen Australian content, including 55 per cent of transmission between 6am and midnight, 7 days per week, and provides for the production of Australian drama and children’s programming.

“Broadcasters have a unique role in preserving our national culture and the commercial television sector invests hundreds of millions of dollars each year in the production of local content,” Senator Conroy said.

“However, they are faced with a converging media environment and switch to digital television, as well as the impact on revenue created by a decline in advertising spend as a result of the Global Financial Crisis.”

“New media platforms are bringing a wealth of choice to Australian viewers, but the Government recognises that Australian television broadcasters have an important role in ensuring that Australian stories remain at the centre of our viewing experience.”

As Australia commences the switch to digital television in Mildura this year, the commercial television broadcasters will play a key role in delivering the full suite of digital television services across Australia.

“Rolling out multiple digital television channels to regions which have previously had limited services is a particular challenge,” Senator Conroy said.

“The Government recognises that the commercial television broadcasters will require some assistance to maintain Australian content production, while investing in a new delivery platform nationally.

“Licence fee rebates will be 33 per cent in 2010 and 50 per cent in 2011 to ensure that commercial broadcasters can continue to invest in new Australian content.”

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, Television Licence fees were $286.8 million in 2008-09.

The Government is also committed to reviewing the future role of licence fees in Australia as the media sector undergoes a period of significant change.

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