Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has rejected calls for the ABC to relocate its Ultimo offices and opened the door to a major review of the country’s broadcasting sector.
In an extensive interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and age, Rowland has ruled out any move by the public broadcaster from its downtown Sydney and Melbourne offices and revealed that she is considering a thorough review of the 30-year-old legislation that governs the broadcasting sector in a concerted effort to ensure that the federal policy applies to an era where social media and streaming are prevalent.
“The key issue here is that we still have an analog environment for the digital age,” Rowland said. “We have a Broadcasting Services Act that dates back to 1992. I even said in 2017 that we hadn’t done a proper review of the media landscape since the Productivity Commission in 2000. The government of time had declared that all the facts were known. They were not known. There is a very strong argument for a revision.
The Broadcasting Services Act is a 30-year-old law that sets out the regulatory environment for the traditional television and radio industries and contains provisions for parts of the Internet. It was updated in 2017 under former Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, who passed a bill to loosen media ownership laws, change local programming requirements and scrap license fees. television and radio.
The location of the ABC’s downtown headquarters was a major point of tension between the public broadcaster and Rowland’s predecessor, Paul Fletcher. But Rowland said the ABC is currently meeting its charter obligations and does not need to be moved.
“Even during the pandemic and during lockdowns, I note [the ABC] had significant reporting from western Sydney and Parramatta in particular,” Rowland said. “The ABC has acknowledged that its charter includes a requirement to reflect all Australians. This has been done, in my view, not with a view to cost cutting, which was essentially the minister’s impetus, but in the purpose of fulfilling its obligations under the Charter.
Rowland’s comments came as the government begins a feasibility study on whether to relocate multicultural broadcaster SBS to Sydney’s west, a move that is expected to be highly competitive among local councils wishing to build a multi-purpose space for various communities.
The newly appointed minister, who grew up in Blacktown and is the MP for Greenway, said the move was a ‘political priority’ for the new government (he originally pledged to carry out a feasibility study on resettlement in 2019 under former opposition leader Bill Shorten).