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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
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Contents >> Culture and Recreation >> Radio and television broadcasting

Broadcasting services in Australia are regulated primarily through the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cwlth). The Act identifies and defines categories of broadcasting services, establishes regulatory arrangements for broadcasting services, and establishes the ABA as the independent regulator for radio and television in Australia.

The Act defines six categories of broadcasting services covering both radio and television:

  • national broadcasting services - the ABC and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) are largely regulated through separate legislation
  • community broadcasting services - non-profit free-to-air services provided for community purposes
  • commercial broadcasting services - free-to-air radio and television services operated for profit and funded predominantly by advertising revenue
  • subscription broadcasting services - services with general appeal to the public and funded predominantly by customer subscriptions
  • subscription narrowcasting services - services with limited appeal to the public (either because of content or availability) and funded predominantly by customer subscriptions
  • open narrowcasting services - services providing programs targeted to special interests groups (e.g. foreign language), or of limited appeal because of content or availability, and not funded by subscriptions.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

The ABC has been in existence since 1932 as Australia's only national, non-commercial broadcaster. At 30 June 2001, the ABC's services included:
  • a national analog television service
  • a digital television service with analog simulcast in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide
  • a digital multichannel service in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide
  • local television services in each state and territory
  • ABC Asia Pacific, an international television service broadcasting via satellite to Asia and the Pacific
  • four national radio networks
  • Radio Australia, an international radio service broadcasting by shortwave and digital satellite to Asia and the Pacific
  • nine metropolitan radio stations in capital cities and Newcastle
  • 48 regional radio stations throughout Australia.

Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)

SBS was established by the Commonwealth Government in 1978. Its principal function is to provide multilingual and multicultural radio and television services that inform, educate and entertain all Australians and, in doing so, reflect Australia's multicultural society.

Both SBS Radio and SBS Television broadcast nationally. The radio service has its origins in 1975 when ethnic radio stations 2EA in Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne began limited broadcasts. By 1996 SBS Radio had expanded to its current five signal service broadcasting in 68 languages. It operates a national signal heard in all capital cities and major regional centres, and separate AM and FM signals in Sydney and Melbourne. It broadcasts in more languages than any other radio network in the world.

SBS Television began in 1980. More than half of the programs broadcast are in languages other than English, but they are made accessible to all Australians through subtitling. SBS Television broadcasts in more than 60 languages - more than any other television network in the world - and has access to over 400 national and international program sources.

Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA)

The ABA, established in October 1992 under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cwlth), is the regulator for radio and television broadcasting, digital broadcasting and Internet content in Australia. As well as planning the availability of segments of the broadcasting services bands (VHF/UHF television, FM and AM radio), the Authority has the power to allocate, renew, suspend and cancel licences and collect any fees payable for those licences.

Under the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Act 1998 (Cwlth), the ABA was empowered to regulate for the introduction of digital broadcasting services in Australia from 1 January 2001.

In terms of broadcasting content, the ABA is empowered to:
  • conduct research into community attitudes on programming matters
  • develop program standards relating to broadcasting in Australia
  • assist broadcasting service providers (licensees) develop codes of practice
  • monitor compliance with licence conditions and codes of practice
  • investigate complaints about services.

The ABA administers a regulatory scheme for Internet content which applies to Internet content hosts and Internet service providers. It also has a role in administering aspects of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (Cwlth), including investigation of complaints about interactive gambling content and registration of industry codes of practice (and/or determination of industry standards) relating to certain interactive gambling matters.

Television services industry

At the end of June 2000, in addition to the two public television broadcasters, there were 41 private sector television broadcasters, comprising 34 commercial free-to-air television broadcasting businesses (operating 48 television stations) and seven pay television broadcasting businesses (operating seven television stations). In 1999-2000 the private sector broadcasters earned a total income of $4,181.9m, employed 10,668 persons and had a net worth of $2,810.1m. Commercial free-to-air television broadcasters recorded an operating profit before tax of $803.5m, while pay television broadcasters reported a loss of $675.8m. For additional information about the television services industry, see Service industries.

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