1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/01/2005   
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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 Australian Broadcasting Authority 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 Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Special Broadcasting Service, which are largely regulated through separate legislation
  • commercial broadcasting services - free-to-air radio and television services operated for profit and funded predominantly by advertising revenue
  • community broadcasting services - non-profit free-to-air services provided for community purposes
  • 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 general 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.

International broadcasting services may fall into any of the last five categories and are targeted, to a significant extent, to audiences outside Australia, using a radiocommunications transmitter in Australia.

Radio and television licences

The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) 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 ABA has the power to allocate, renew, suspend and cancel licences and to collect any fees payable for those licences. Table 12.14 shows the number of radio and television licences on issue in Australia.


30 June 2002
30 June 2003

Commercial television broadcasting licences
Commercial radio broadcasting licences
Community radio broadcasting licences
Remote Aboriginal community television licences
Open narrowcasting services planned in licence area plans
International broadcasting licences

Source: Australian Broadcasting Authority, Annual Report, 2002-03.

Further information about the ABA can be obtained from the web site, <http://www.aba.gov.au>.

Television broadcasting services

The ABS conducted a survey of television broadcasting services businesses (excluding public and community television broadcasting businesses) in respect of 2002-03. This showed that at the end of June 2003 there were 27 commercial free-to-air television broadcasting businesses and six subscription television broadcasting businesses, employing a total of 9,094 people. In 2002-03 these businesses earned a total income of $5,158.8m. Commercial free-to-air television broadcasters recorded an operating profit before tax of $658.9m, while subscription broadcasters reported an operating loss before tax of $451.5m. More information from the ABS survey on television services is available in Chapter 20 Service industries.

According to an ABS survey on household use of information technology, pay TV subscriptions have increased steadily since the mid-1990s, from 5% of households in 1996 to 11% in 1998, 17% in 2000 and 21% in 2002. There is greater penetration of pay TV into metropolitan areas - 23% of metropolitan households had a pay TV subscription in 2002 compared with 17% of other households.

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