The future of community broadcasting looks bright, with the Australian Communications and Media Authority renewing 148 of 150 community broadcasting licences assessed in the last financial year. Community broadcasting licences must be renewed every five years and the number assessed in the last year represents more than 40 per cent of the total 360 long-term licences in Australia.
‘Uniquely among the wide range of broadcasting services available to Australian audiences, community broadcasting services are provided by the communities which enjoy them,’ said acting ACMA Chairman, Richard Bean.
To ensure that community licensees operate as intended, they must comply with legislation that requires them to involve members of their licence area community in the operations of the service and in the selection and provision of programs. On rare occasions, licences will not be renewed.
Two of 150 renewal applications received in the last financial year were declined by the ACMA:
- 2VTR in the Windsor area of New South Wales; and
- 4MIG in Mount Isa, Queensland
‘A decision not to renew a licence is not made lightly,’ Richard Bean said. ‘Where a licensee is struggling to provide the service or to comply with the rules, the ACMA first works to assist the licensee to improve. These are, after all, not-for-profit, volunteer-run services. However, where compliance problems persist over a prolonged period, the ACMA will act to make licences available to others.’
The 2VTR licence, held by Hawkesbury Radio Communications Cooperative Society Ltd, was not renewed following 2VTR’s continued non-compliance with the community participation licence condition. The compliance issues went unresolved despite informal and formal enforcement action taken by the ACMA over a lengthy period.
The ACMA also declined to renew the 4MIG licence, held by Mount Isa Christian Broadcasters Association Inc. 4MIG was unable to muster the resources to meet the needs of the community in its licence area.
These licences expire at the end of their current terms: 11 September 2017 in the case of 4MIG and 3 October 2017 for 2VTR.
Both licences will then be available for temporary community broadcasting. The ACMA will be advertising these very shortly.
For more information, please see the Backgrounder below or contact Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719, 0434 652 063 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Media release 29/2017 - 28 August
The last financial year, 2016-17, was a peak period for community broadcasting licence renewals as the affected five year licences were in existence when the Broadcasting Services Act came into effect in October 1992. The next peak period for community broadcasting licence renewals will fall in the 2021-22 financial year. Renewal applications for licences that were not in existence in 1992-93 are due every five years from the date when they were allocated.
Community broadcasting services, which are regulated by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA), play an important role in meeting the objectives of the BSA, which include:
- promoting the diversity of broadcasting services available to the Australian public
- developing and reflecting Australian identity, character and cultural diversity
- providing programming material that is locally significant.
Community broadcasting licensees receive free access to radiofrequency spectrum, which is a valuable public resource, in order to provide a service for local communities in their respective licence areas. The rules and regulations, including those dealing with licensing, ensure that this valuable resource is used in a manner that serves the community.
Application for renewal of a community broadcasting licence
A community broadcasting licensee must lodge an application to renew their licence no earlier than one year before the expiry date of the licence. The ACMA assesses a licence renewal application against the matters at subsection 84(2) of the BSA:
- In deciding whether to allocate a community broadcasting licence that is a broadcasting services bands licence to an applicant or to one of a group of applicants, the ACMA is to have regard to:
- the extent to which the proposed service or services would meet the existing and perceived future needs of the community within the licence area of the proposed licence; and
- the nature and diversity of the interests of that community; and
- the nature and diversity of other broadcasting services (including national broadcasting services) available within that licence area; and
- the capacity of the applicant to provide the proposed service or services; and
- the undesirability of one person being in a position to exercise control of more than one community broadcasting licence that is a broadcasting services bands licence in the same licence area; and
- the undesirability of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory or a political party being in a position to exercise control of a community broadcasting licence.
The capacity of a licensee to provide a service includes an assessment of the financial, technical and management capacity of that licensee. Management capacity includes the capacity to manage the licensee’s operations in compliance with the regulatory requirements of the BSA, other laws and applicable codes of practice.
Non-renewal of a community broadcasting licence
Having assessed an application to renew a community broadcasting licence against the matters at subsection 84(2) of the BSA, the ACMA may refuse to renew that licence, under subsection 91(2A) of the BSA.
The list of current community broadcasting licences is available on the ACMA website.