The ABC has warned of some News cuts, SBS is happy, and Network Ten says the license fee reduction is not enough in initial reactions to the broadcasting provisions of the federal government’s Budget 2016.
Treasurer Scott Morrison has attempted to put a steady hand on Australia’s broadcasting sector handing down the federal government’s election year Budget as the industry continues to be buffeted by competitive headwinds. In the Communication Portfolio he maintained core funding for the national broadcasters, giving a fillip to several of their programs and giving the commercial TV broadcasters their heavily lobbied for license fee cuts.
The ABC said its looking at some cuts after the government agreed to continue funding its enhanced news gathering services but at a reduced rate of $41.4 million over the next three years. Thats on top of its core funding of $3.1 billion for 2016-2019.
“ABC News will seek to maintain as many of the initiatives as possible, with a focus on delivering for Australians in regional and outer-suburban areas. However, there will necessarily be some changes to staffing and programming in line with the reduced allocation of funds,”
The Enhanced Newsgathering Program received $20 million in the final year of the current triennial arrangements – under the program its been able to bolster local and regional news gathering services, including the establishment of outer-suburban bureaux, establish a National Reporting Team, state-based digital news and the ABC Fact Check Unit and improve live-linking capacity in the regions.
SBS managing director Michael Ebeid welcomed the additional $15.1 million provided to the multicultural broadcaster, on top of its $814.2 million base funding allocation over the next three years.
The $15.1 million includes $8.3 million for continuation of core SBS activities and $6.9 million in 2016-17 to reinstate funds SBS would have raised, had proposed legislation to provide SBS with advertising flexibility passed the Senate.
The funding will “enable SBS teams to continue delivering on our Charter by providing balanced and high-quality news and current affairs, services that aid participation in Australian life for our four million LOTE (Language other than English) speakers, and unique programs which inspire a greater understanding and appreciation of our nation’s diversity,” Ebeid said.
“In this Budget, the government has recognised the value of SBS’s role in our collective efforts to promote social cohesion, and the changing media landscape in which SBS operates.”
“The funding will support SBS services at a time when there is higher engagement and demand than ever before, with audiences expecting content to be delivered across a multitude of digital platforms and devices.
Besides the new triennial arrangements for the national broadcasters’ it was the 25 per cent license fee cuts to the commercial broadcasters, worth $163 million to their bottom lines that provided the headline.
While Network Ten CEO Paul Anderson welcomed the reduction in license fees he said they were not enough to enable the broadcasters to compete in an environment of fragmenting audiences and the move to online and on demand content, and warned that the networks’ investment in local content remanins under threat.
“Despite a lengthy review and extensive consultation with the television industry, the Government’s disappointing decision only reduces this outdated and unfair super profits tax from 4.5 per cent of gross revenue to 3.375 per cent,” Anderson said.
“While any reduction is positive, at this level our fee remains wildly out of step with fees paid in any comparable jurisdiction. This single reduction does not recognise the urgency of the challenges that this industry faces and the Government has not indicated a clear path forward to a truly sustainable fee.
“The commercial free-to-air television networks are by far the largest contributor to domestic content production in Australia and underpin the entire production sector. Together, we spend more than $1.5 billion a year on Australian content,” he said.
“As we clearly outlined to the Government, a meaningful reduction in licence fees would have resulted in more work for local content producers and more Australian content on air. Without an urgent path to a sustainable fee, local content remains under threat.”
Communications Minister Mitch Fifeld said the government will look at further reductions in broadcasting licence fees later in 2016 as part of a broader package of reforms that will include consideration of the pricing of broadcasting spectrum.
“This will build on the Government’s first tranche of media reforms which will repeal redundant media control rules and enhance local content obligations on regional commercial television broadcasters,” Fifield said.
That clearly depends on the government winning the upcoming the federal election.
“As a whole, these reforms will ensure our media laws keep pace with changes in technology and media consumption habits, and give our traditional media companies the flexibility to compete and adapt in the changing media landscape,” the minister added.