Proposed Media Reforms Could Permit Broadcasters To Trade and Lease Their Spectrum

Proposed Media Reforms Could Permit Broadcasters To Trade and Lease Their Spectrum

Free TV has welcomed Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield’s comments that under the new reforms, existing broadcasters will have certainty of access to spectrum.

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Senator Fifield lifted the lid on a list of legislative spectrum reform proposals at the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s RadComms conference yesterday, announcing that, like other spectrum users, “broadcasters will be able to share, trade or lease all or part of their spectrum” subject to conditions of their license.

But Free TV is wary that it first needs to understand the proposed approach to key issues like pricing, length of tenure, and renewal rights under the proposed framework before they can throw their support behind it.

“Virtually every Australian household has access to commercial free-to-air television, with over 13 million Australians watching commercial free TV every day. More than 70 per cent of people rely exclusively on free-to-air broadcasters for their television services,” Free TV said in a statement.

“The high value of social and cultural uses of spectrum, including by free-to-air broadcasters, must not be overlooked as part of the reform process. Free TV will provide a detailed response to the proposals as part of the formal submissions process.”

Free TV claims any spectrum reforms should recognise the importance of interference-free commercial TV, and provide certainty of access for broadcasters to invest and innovate services.

“The government is committed to ensuring that broadcast licence holders will continue to have certainty of access to spectrum to deliver their broadcasting services,” Senator Fifield said, per a report in The Australian.

“Like other spectrum users, broadcasters will be able to share, trade or lease all or part of their spectrum, subject to the conditions of their licence.

“The proposed broadcasting amendments will require consequential amendments to the Broadcasting Services Act.”

“As licences become more generic in nature, they are more easily shared, traded and leased,” Fifield added. “To this end, the legislation will set out core parameters that a licence must address, such as frequency and geographic area of operation, licence duration, rights of renewal and pricing.”

Chief executive of subscription television lobby group ASTRA Andrew Maiden told The Oz free-to-air networks should not have the price for spectrum slashed while still raking in profits from leasing that spectrum to others.

“Spectrum is a scarce resource owned by the public, so free-to-air networks must not be gifted more than they need and then allowed to sub-lease the surplus for private profit,” Maiden said.

“Free-to-air networks should no more be gifted pockets of spare public spectrum for sub-letting than property developers should be gifted pockets of spare public parkland to build apartments.”