Labor Pledge on Cash for Comment & Digital Conversion

The Federal Opposition has released its broadcasting policy, saying a Labor Government would move broadcasting into the 21st century by reforming and strengthening the sector.

The ALP has pledged to implement the Australian Broadcasting Authority’s recommendations to tighten cash for comment loopholes.

Another significant commitment relates to digital broadcasting conversion costs. Labor says it will assist commercial radio by freezing the number of licences and selling the new spectrum on a cost recovery basis.

Shadow Communications Minister, Lindsay Tanner, says radio stations could migrate to digital on reasonable terms that recognise their incumbency.

“Labor is committed to more competition, choice and support for Australian broadcasting.

“Under the Howard Government, Australia is in danger of becoming an international digital backwater, with digital tv take up rates of just 5%. Our ABC has been starved of adequate funding and attacked politically.

“A Labor Government will:
• Inject $105 million in new funding to the ABC to enhance its multi-channelling capacity and regional tv and radio reach
• Provide ABC funding to enable a dedicated Townsville based ABC tv news service, serving North Queensland from Bowen to Mossman
• Allow the ABC and SBS to multi-channel programs of their choice
• Guarantee diversity of ownership in Australia’s media
• Guarantee local content in Australian media so we can continue to hear and see our own voices and stories
• Strengthen our anti-siphoning rules to ensure Australians can continue to
watch the sports they love on free to air tv
• Require Telstra to divest its interest in Foxtel to improve competition for consumers in our communications sector
• Merge the ABA and Australian Communications Authority to create a single regulator.

“Labor’s policy will kick start our broadcasting sector to provide better services for all Australians.”

Commercial radio has been heartened by Labor’s provision of certainty on the industry’s digital future.

Commercial Radio Australia chief, Joan Warner, says: “We think we can work with Labor on the basis of this policy and we are very pleased to see they recognise the rights and needs of the incumbent commercial radio industry.

“CRA has had talks with the Coalition, but we’ve not received the level of reassurance from them that we have with the Labor policy.”

The Government is yet to outline its broadcasting policy.