The Senate has approved the National Transmission Network Sale Bill 1998, and the Government has vowed to quickly sell the NTA to the private sector. The legislation satisfies various aims sought by the ABC, SBS and the Community sector, including offset funding for Community Radio and giving the ABC control of its transmitters. The advantages of Privatizing the NTA are:
Giving the ABC and SBS direct responsibility for their transmission activities – an outcome both organisations have sought for many years;
Transferring the risk in capital funding of the digital conversion of the network from the public sector to the private sector – with a significant benefit to taxpayers;
Removing government from an activity which the private sector has a far greater capacity to undertake;
Providing $80,000 to the community broadcasting sector to offset commercial costs which are likely to be charged by the new operator, ensuring continuing access to transmission facilities, and guaranteeing access to existing network sites and towers for community broadcasters.
Community Service Obligations will be preserved for network users such as Radio for the Print Handicapped, remote commercial satellite broadcasting services, self-help retransmission groups and emergency service operators.
The Privatized NTA will need to invest significant capital outlays into digital transmission, so the passing of the legislation will ensure the investment is secure.