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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.
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:
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:
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.