Thursday 27 November 2014

Hansard of the Legislative Council

ABC and Commercial Television News Cuts

Mr FINCH Question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the

While the Government has expressed its deep concern to cuts to ABC services in Tasmania, is the Government aware of a wider concern about probable cuts to commercial television news gathering in Tasmania, as the major commercial channels plan to stream their content directly to consumers, bypassing regional commercial operators like WIN Television?


Mr President, I thank the honourable member for Rosevears for his question. Last week the CEO of Nine Entertainment, Mr David Gyngell, made comments regarding the future of broadcasting in the region, saying that in five years' time regional broadcasters such as WIN, Prime and Southern Cross would be redundant because the major city broadcasters would simply stream programs directly into the regions via the internet. This would mean that they would no longer have a regional affiliate deal.

There is currently a regional affiliate deal because of the legislative requirement that no single broadcaster can have more than a 75 per cent reach across Australia. Therefore the regional networks - Southern Cross, Prime, WIN TV - pay a percentage of their advertising revenue to Channel 7 and Channel 9 respectively in order to buy their programming content. Mr Gyngell's comments have been dismissed by Prime Media chairman, Mr John Hartigan, who says that there are two major factors that would prevent this from happening, being:

(a) that the revenue that the Nine Network earns from the regional affiliates is in excess of $100 million annually and that there is currently no business model via internet streaming that would deliver and replace this revenue; and

(b) of greater significance is that fact the networks currently do not hold the rights to stream content via the internet which includes tentpole programming such as AFL, NRL and cricket as well as drama content.

I have been advised that at the present time there has been no decision taken by any of the major networks to bypass regional broadcasters. However, as the reach of the internet increases there is no doubt that current business models will begin to change over time and current legislation surrounding the 75 per cent reach rule, for example, will undoubtedly require examination. Furthermore, the regional broadcasters have indicated that their local news programming is the most valuable in terms of audience ratings and advertising revenue generation and there are no proposals to reduce local news gathering crews as a direct response to Mr Gyngell's comments.