Networks want licence fees axed

mb_turnbullCommercial TV bosses will lobby Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull at a summit in Sydney on Friday for licence fees axed and regulatory changes.

The Australian and Australian Financial Review both report networks are experiencing a “profound economic squeeze” and claiming special status because of competitive, structural and economic pressures. They claim they hold a “special” place in the community.

They also seek the repeal of ownership rules, which would allow mergers between metropolitan and regional broadcasters.

A Free TV Australia submission claims overseas companies such as Google and streaming giant Netflix had put heavy pressure on revenues.

“As an industry, we acknowledge and accept that from the perspective of many citizens, commercial FTA (free-to-air) broadcasting is ‘special’,” Free TV chief executive Julie Flynn said.

“It is the home of high-quality free content, especially news and sport and, finally, it holds a special place in the affections of many Australians, participating alongside the public broadcasting sector in the national conversation.”

Networks were granted rebates of $250m under the previous Labor government.


  1. I just really wish they’d stop lobbying for me to not watch them and their shows with computer graphics during the shows. It doesn’t make me feel affection nor like I want to watch them.

    I figured out why the rest of the audience is ignoring it. I paid attention and thought about it. To Lateline, TV Tonight plus Q&A. Heather Ridout mentioned illiteracy. Same with Lateline in Tasmania. TV Tonight showed Today Tonight e-mails. Plus a viewer here mentioned they couldn’t read stuff. Because often it is fast. Also televisions can be small or too far away. Or people can have eyesight problems. Plus there are some that can ignore stuff. Outright illiteracy is 4% but functional illiteracy is 17% from Wikipedia. So why are they using words when many can’t or won’t read it? Why can’t they work out that’s what is going on?

  2. So perhaps the recently floated Nine Network can reconcile its rosy projections to investors with its lobby group now wanting licence fees abolished so they’ve got their spectrum for nothing. Lucky Malcolm Turnbull is a little smarter than his Labor predecessor, Mr Conroy and will not capitulate. Perhaps he should go further and do what Margaret Thatcher did and put all the commercial TV licences out to auction. That would soon sort out if they have a value.

  3. There is a cost in not having the spectrum available for other uses, that networks must pay something for. The point is that as commercial operators they are allowed to charge for ads in exchange for not costing consumers anything.

    The networks experienced a squeeze and had their licence fees cut in half. TV Advertising revenue is now currently increasing and tipped to rise further as the retail sector recovers from the high dollar. Seven and Nine are back to making large profits.

    Ten isn’t but it is far from clear that even abolishing their licence fee will save them.

    This is just rent seeking by vested interests and Turnbull already rejected it a couple of months ago when it was proposed before.

  4. License fees should be doubled not eliminated! They’re using a finite publicly-owned resource (the airwaves) and I don’t believe we’re often getting our money’s worth in return.

    The network’s gall is astounding, they are beyond greedy, they make bankers look human.

  5. Secret Squirrel

    The sad refrain of a lone violin wavers in the air as I reach for a tissue to dab my leaking eyes…

    Puh-lease! What a load of rubbish. the FTA networks conspire to keep Netflix and Hulu out of Australia so it’s difficult to see how either of these are putting heavy pressure on revenues. Seems like they think that they can scare the govt just by saying Boo! Google! Let’s see some evidence.

    More likely they’re suffering because the same TV audience is now spread over 4 times as many channels.

    I don’t want to rehash the many good comments that have been, and will be, made except to say that RF spectrum has a value and if they don’t want to pay for it, there are plenty of Telcos, radio stations, and others that would also like to have some for free.

    Oh yes, FTA, you are so special. So very special, yes you are.

  6. once-upon-a-time

    ” They claim they hold a special place in the community”
    ” It holds a special place in the affections of many Australians”
    These two excerpts are very close to being so true, and if you look to the ‘special place’ on the ‘right’ of these commercial bosses, you will see exactly who they are referring to.

    And now they are going lobby a minister in the very government, that these same bosses virtually delivered into government and its ‘special place of power’.

    And is this the true meaning of investing in the future of the ‘FTA’ as in ‘Forever Thankful Appreciation’.

  7. ““It is the home of high-quality free content, especially news…”
    I think many would say that crown falls to ABC24.
    ” networks are experiencing a “profound economic squeeze” – I’ve got an idea. Why not just run some advertising-only channels 24/7, increase ad times on the main channels to 20mins/hr, get hours of free “branded content” for weekends, repeat (sorry “encore”) programs over and over…oh wait. Sorry, I forgot. Already doing that.
    “streaming giant Netflix had put heavy pressure on revenues”. Doesn’t Telstra have to be able to provide me with a cable Internet connection to allow me to access Netflix?

  8. If FTA TV ends up not having to pay license fees, radio stations will soon want the same. Any business that uses radio spectrum pays fees for the space they use – TV, radio, telcos, etc. It is only fair that they all pay a fee for spectrum use.

    One thing that would be a major leap forward for Australia is abolition of reach rules so the metro and regional networks can merge into true national networks, pool their resources and make better television for us all.

  9. If they dont want to pay the fees, the government should put the frequencies up for tender. Then see how much they are really prepared to pay.

  10. If they want fees removed then they need to be subject to a public interest test in the provisions of their licence, they need reapply for that licence annually and they need to be overseen by a legislative committee.

    Radio spectrum is a valuable thing, the nation is entitled to expect something in consideration of that channel allocation.

  11. No licence fee at all? Perhaps it’s time to nationalise the FTA commercial broadcasters and be done with it. ABC1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. At least then it’ll be obvious that TV is being propped up by the public purse.

  12. jezza the first original one

    How the hell does Netflix put pressure on revenues here in Australia?

    Our internet speeds are way too slow and they haven’t even got here yet. I will be so glad when they do.

    However I do agree about the networks considering themselves special, as so many of the top executives clearly have ‘special needs’ or learning difficulties given some of the decisions they make over and over again

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