The majority voted against an amendment to the usual second reading motion, which is "that the bill be read a second time" (parliamentary jargon for agreeing with the main idea of the bill). This means the amendment failed.
At the end of the motion, add: ", but the Senate notes that:
(a) on 6 May 2017, the Coalition Government announced "a review of Australian and children's content" to "ensure the ongoing availability of Australian and children's content to domestic and international audiences, regardless of platform", yet over four years later there is still no sign of an Australian content obligation for streaming services;
(b) the Government has already watered down Australian content obligations for commercial free-to-air television broadcasters;
(c) the Government now proposes to halve the Australian content obligation for subscription television broadcasters;
(d) on 14 September 2017, the Coalition Government first announced the $50 million Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund, yet since then only $17.48 million has been committed under three funding rounds;
(e) the reallocation of funds from the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation Fund to the Public Interest News Gathering (PING) Program in 2020 reduced the amount of funding available for regional and small publishers; and
(f) the ongoing delay and inadequacy around government support and reform is undermining jobs and content in the screen sector and the public interest journalism industry in Australia".
What does this bill do?
According to the explanatory memorandum, the bill:
contain[s] a package of five measures designed to improve the operation for services in the broadcasting sector and to simplify regulation by removing redundant and otherwise unnecessary provisions.
The proposed measures in the Bill would amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the RA) to:
a. reduce regulatory burden on subscription television broadcasting licensees by halving the annual expenditure requirement for Australian drama programming from 10 per cent to 5 per cent and amend on an ongoing basis;
b. move the subscription television captioning rules from the BSA into a disallowable Ministerial instrument;
c. repeal a redundant provision from the digital radio framework in the RA to reflect that there is now only one spectrum band for digital radio;
d. extend grandfathering arrangements for new population determinations made by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA); and
e. extend the timeframe for ACMA to implement grants under the Regional and Small Publishers Innovation (RASPI) Fund beyond 30 June 2021.
Note that explanatory memoranda are prepared by the party introducing the bill and so are not as reliable as bill digests, which are prepared by the parliamentary library. However, there is not currently a bills digest available for this bill.
Labor will not stand in the way of minor regulatory housekeeping, which is much of what this bill presents, but we will not be a part of this government's attempt to dismantle bit by bit the Australian screen content rules without anything new being put in their place. Labor will not stand in the way of the changes to captioning rules, changes to digital radio channel plans, changes affecting regional commercial radio licensees or the extension of the time frame for the ACMA to make grants for original journalism. These measures may not be perfect, but Labor won't stand in their way. But Labor will not support the halving of Foxtel's Australian screen content obligation in the absence of new requirements to support the screening of stories on our screens.