Second Reading – Television Broadcasting Bill
Mr PITT (Hinkler) (17:35): I rise to speak on the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Primary Television Broadcasting Service) Bill 2015. It will be a brief contribution, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Vasta. We switched to digital fully and completely in December 2014. There were a number anomalies in places and my office, like many other electorate offices, was swamped by any number of complaints. A lot of those turned out to simply be operational issues where people could not manage to retune their televisions. After a short period of time that all came around. There was one in particular person whom I would like to mention.
This gentleman was aware of ACMA. He had a large knowledge about the broadcasting act and communications legislation. In fact, he was quite demanding about how we might deal with the issue and how it affected him. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be one Paul Neville, the former member for Hinkler and former chair of the infrastructure and communications standing committee. Mr Neville was well aware of the ways to address some of the issues and we did sort them out after a period of time. He now successfully has some quality digital television reception at his home.
This legislation is responding to an exponential change in the media and how it is working. Many of the people in the House and those listening on other broadcast services would be well aware that the media landscape is changing considerably and at an exponential rate. Regardless of whether you use a portable device like an iPad or an iPhone or whether you use a streaming service or Netflix or you choose to listen to your radio from Sydney, Melbourne or Western Australia, quite simply the landscape has shifted and we must shift with it. This is a common-sense change to legislation and one which is fully supported of course by both sides. It is a good outcome.
The things we do need to consider though are those people out there who it may affect. Currently there is a mandatory requirement for a standard definition broadcast, particularly for the AFL and NRL finals. With your indulgence, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Vasta, I would like to speak about that just briefly because it is something I am incredibly passionate about. During this NRL season it became very clear that there was a potential for two Queensland teams, the North Queensland Cowboys and the Brisbane Broncos, to actually finish one-two at the top of the table and potentially then go on to play a final. My greatest nightmare would be, as it would be for all local NRL supporters, the fact that those teams would come up against one another in the first week and, unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened. On this weekend, the Brisbane Broncos will play the North Queensland Cowboys. Fortunately it is not an elimination final but it will be a great game of football. I am sure lots of people will be out supporting it. However, we can still keep our fingers crossed, as passionate Queenslanders, that they will end up in the grand final. Imagine having two Queensland teams in the national rugby league grand final.
Mr Neumann interjecting—
Mr PITT: The Intrust Cup is another great league. Thank you very much for the interjection, Mr Neumann. I am always passionate about rugby league.
Once this legislation is changed, if the broadcaster does choose—it is up to the broadcaster—to transmit in high-definition then those people out there who own HD TVs will get an incredibly clear picture. Television is one of those areas where there has been exponential change. In fact, the price of HD televisions has come down substantially. Many homes now own HD TVs. Whether you support that very strange game of AFL or you support the national rugby league, I am sure there are good opportunities.
I notice the member for Herbert has just entered the chamber. I am sure he will definitely speak about the North Queensland Cowboys and how fantastic they will look in HD broadcast when the opportunity occurs. I congratulate the minister for moving on with these things.
I would also low speak about the Save our Voices campaign. This is something which regional broadcasters and other media outlets have been running over a long period of time. I would like to put my views firmly on the record—that is, simply that the Communications Act at the moment will be a Pandora’s box. We cannot cherry-pick the elements that one supporter or the other may well like to pick up. But if we do open the box, I think everything should be on the table because, as I said, the media landscape has shifted completely.
You can now read your news from anywhere in the country or in fact from anywhere in the world. You can take your broadcast directly from the US if you so choose. The communications legislation that was put together in the mid-90s is relatively ineffectual and certainly is not up with the times. However, if we are to open Pandora’s box, we must ensure it is not an exercise in futility. It may well be, because if we cannot gain Senate support for changes which might be proposed, it will be a significant waste of time and resources of the parliament to even look at it.
There are also some amendments to the VAST service—that is, the free-to-air satellite—which also has a regulatory provision for standard definition broadcasts for local news—another mandatory requirement. There is a common-sense change that the broadcasters may elect to broadcast local news in HD if they so choose, so there is more flexibility. This is certainly a well supported piece of legislation. For those people in regional Australia, their No. 1 priority is actually getting reception of digital TV, to have a service that works consistently, one which is not washed out by storms or trees that move or wind that blows. Quite simply, they are the things that we must ensure happen with some urgency and as a No. 1 priority.
This is a common-sense change. I support the legislation fully. There will be an opportunity to broadcast those finals in HD. I look forward to seeing the Queensland teams out and running in positions one and two and then it will not matter—whichever to team gets up, Queensland will still be a winner. I commend the bill to the House.