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Friday, 28 June 1946


Mr CHAMBERS (Adelaide) . - I agree with many of the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) on this bill, including his remark that party polities should not enter into this debate. The Broadcasting

Committee took a considerable volume of evidence from public men, including experts from New Zealand, upon the advisability and practicability of broadcasting parliamentary debates. We did appreciate the necessity to broadcast, if possible, the whole of the proceedings. Some honorable members may not be aware that New Zealand is much more favorably situated than is Australia to broadcast parliamentary debates. The difficulties; including that of broadcasting the whole of the proceedings, are referred to in the eighth report of the committee. It states -

Were it not for the high expenditure involved, the ideal arrangement would be the. provision of a network of 22 national medium' wave stations capable of serving nearly all the populated portions of Australia. Equipment alone, however, would entail expenditure in the neighbourhood of £500,000.

In view of the tremendous burden of war expenditure, the committee considered that it would be accepting a grave responsibility if it recommended to the Parliament the expenditure of £500,000 for the broadcasting of the debates. The report continued -

But apart from the cost, there are insuperable difficulties owing to the shortage of radio channels, unless the licences of some commercial stations were not renewed at the expiration of their annual period of tenure, to enable their channels to be allocated for the purpose, or unless recourse is made to the sharing of channels to a greater extent than at present, with resultant degrading of service to listeners on account of the clash of simultaneous transmissions from stations operating on the same channel. The remedy for this would lie in the use of the very high frequencies in addition to the medium frequencyband of channels at present used in Australia's domestic system, as the method of operation known as " frequency modulation ".

At present Australia is situated differently from New Zealand . in regard to broadcasting channels. The Government of New Zealand controls the whole of the broadcasting services of that Dominion. It can use one channel for a whole day for parliamentary broadcasts, and leave the remainder of the network for other national broadcasting. That is not the position in Australia. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has indicated to us the disadvantages under which it works in relation to commercial broadcasting companies. It has also been indicated that only 20 per cent of the population of Australia tunes in to the national programmes. In these circumstances, it would have been unfair to the commission had the committee recommended, and the Parliament agreed to provide in legislation, that one complete channel should be made available for the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. That would have greatly restricted the Australian Broadcasting Commission in its other operations.

The broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings is an experiment in Australia. When such broadcasts were introduced in New Zealand in 1936 they also were experimental. Evidence was submitted to the committee in effect that many people in New Zealand at that time declared that parliamentary broadcasts would be unpopular, but, in fact, such broadcasts have now become of vital interest in the sister dominion. Originally, the Opposition in the Parliament of New Zealand was totally opposed to the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings, but during the last general election campaign the Leader of the Opposion indicated that if his party were returned to power it would continue such broadcasts. It may be said, therefore, that the experiment in New Zealand has been a success.

We hope that frequency-modulation broadcasting may be developed soon to such a degree that it can be applied generally in Australia. When that time comes it will be practicable to provide one channel for the broadcasting of the complete proceedings of the Parliament.


Mr Anthony - Frequency modulation is effective only within 30 or 50 miles of the station.


Mr CHAMBERS - Arrangements could be made to use other channels, so that the proceedings couldbe made available to people in all the States. I am confident that the new method will be applied before very long, and that it will afford improved listening facilities to the people throughout the Commonwealth.I do not consider it necessary to say more on this aspect of the subject at this moment. The Broadcasting Committee would have been happy if it could have recommended that a complete broadcast of the proceedings of Parliament should be undertaken at once, but it realized, as I have said, that that would be an injustice to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and would have still further reduced the capacity of the commission to provide a reasonably varied entertainment for the 20 per cent, of the people who rely,, on the national network. Listeners are entitled to variety of entertainment. They would have variety in parliamentary broadcasts, of course, but it was not considered by the committee to be reasonable to recommend, at this stage, the reservation of one complete channel for parliamentary purposes. The Australian Broadcasting Commission rs in some financial difficulty, even under present conditions, and a proposal has been submitted to the committee that an additional 3s. should be earmarked for the commission from each £1 licence-fee. That would mean that the commission would receive 15s. from each listener's fee. The commission contends that that amount is necessary to enable it to develop its resources and meet the competition of the commercial broadcasting stations.

I do not intend to discuss the legal aspects of this measure, which were referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, for I am not a lawyer. I am confident, however, that the innovation of broadcasting parliamentary proceedings will be approved by the House, and, in due course, appreciated by the people of Australia.







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