Narrowcasters are under financial pressure at the moment due to COVID but, unlike their commercial counterparts, they have not been granted any licence fee tax relief, according to Australian Narrowcast Radio Association (ANRA) President Phil Edwards.
Edwards has told radioinfo:
“ANRA initiated discussions with the ACMA and the Minister, Paul Fletcher, regarding the issue back in April. The ACMA responded saying that they recognised that some parts of the sector have been facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic but noted that it does not have the legal authority to waive licence fees; they best they could do is approve payment deferrals/instalment arrangements.
“The ACMA offered to defer licence renewal payments for up to 12 months, or instalment plans, including waiving interest charges normally associated with these arrangements.”
Rete Italia is one narrowcast network struggling with payments due to the advertising downturn. Recently the network has sold some of its licences to SEN and has made programming changes aimed at bringing in more revenue.
There are more than 2600 narrowcast low and high powered licences across the country (pictured above), with formats that include TAB Racing Radio services, outback indigenous stations, religious stations, language formats, non-mainstream music genres, tourist information and retirement villages.
Despite the licence fee payment deferrals, the sector says it is still struggling.
Commercial broadcasters have been granted a 12-month waiver of spectrum tax. The tax is different from the apparatus licence fees paid by narrowcasters, but ANRA says it is still an undue burden in these difficult times.
A Spokesperson for the Communications Minister Paul Fletcher has told radioinfo:
“The ACMA has been offering relief to [Narrowcaster] licensees unable to pay their apparatus fees during the COVID-19 period by allowing deferral of payments and payment by instalment, and by waiving the interest charges normally associated with this.
“ACMA has recently concluded a consultation on spectrum pricing, which provided an opportunity for stakeholders to express their views on a number of issues including whether there should be greater parity in pricing between services like commercial broadcasting and open narrowcasting.
“A number of narrowcasters have made submissions to this consultation. The ACMA will consider these views and respond to them in due course.”