The Datacasting Charge (Imposition) Bill 1998 provides for the imposition of a charge in relation to the provision of datacasting services by free-to-air television broadcasters. Part 6 of the proposed Schedule 4 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 provides for the collection of this charge. Part 6 is contained in Schedule 1 to the Television Broadcasting Services (Digital Conversion) Bill 1998.

The Government's policy on the conversion of national and commercial terrestrial television broadcasters from analog to digital transmission allows broadcasters to use any surplus transmission capacity remaining after meeting their obligations in regard to providing their main broadcasting services, for datacasting purposes.

The Government has also announced that it will make available unused channels in the broadcasting spectrum bands for competitive price-based allocation for datacasting services.

This policy has the potential to place broadcasters at an advantage over those players who are successful in gaining datacasting channels. Under the Government's digital conversion policy, broadcasters would be allocated their digital transmission channels free of up front or ongoing charge. However, other datacasters would have to compete in the market place for their spectrum.

To ensure a level playing field between broadcasters who offer datacasting services, and other datacasters, the Government will levy a charge on broadcasters for datacasting. This charge will be set at a level which will be competitively neutral when compared to the price paid by datacasters for competitively allocated channels.

The amount of the charge will be determined in writing by the Australian Communications Authority. The Australian Broadcasting Authority will administer the scheme as a delegate of the Australian Communications Authority.

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