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Tuesday, 9 February 1999
Page: 2260

Mr JULL (10:42 PM) —Tonight I would like to express to the House the concern, anger and disgust felt by thousands of residents of my electorate and, indeed, of the Gold Coast area of Queensland at the recent actions of the Australian Broadcasting Authority in terminating the temporary licence of Radio Hope Island. A number of members of this House would be aware of some of the difficulties that face community radio stations in attaining a licence. They would be aware of some of the aspects of the particular bill pertaining to those licences that really should be reviewed.

Radio Hope Island was granted a temporary licence some four years ago on the understanding that it would broadcast for broken periods of time until it was determined whether they were worthy to hold that licence. Four years later they are no closer to getting that answer from the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

But the thing about Radio Hope Island is that they placed themselves very well in the Gold Coast market, which has the highest concentration of retirees of anywhere in Australia. That particular market is presently served by two head-banging FM stations, one innocuous ABC station, ABC Classic FM, one AM station that was originally based in the electorate of the member for Richmond— which does not quite know what its format is—and one Christian public radio station.

Mr Lee —What about Triple J?

Mr JULL —Triple J goes in there—making three head-banging stations for the retirees of the Gold Coast. What has happened is that Radio Hope Island has concentrated on an audience of over 55 year-olds. Not only have they concentrated on that particular audience but they have managed to establish themselves as the foremost promoter of the Gold Coast art scene.

They have met their obligations as a community station better than most other radio stations of this category to which I have ever listened. Of course, the difficulty that they have is that to maintain their broadcasting for four years on and off takes a lot of money and they are stretched financially at the moment. But let me say this: the people behind this radio station are some of the leading citizens of the Gold Coast. The chairman of the board is a judge and the general manager of the station has had an extensive career within the media industry, and they have been totally responsible.

But, under the terms of the act, the Australian Broadcasting Authority had three other applications for test licences. They claim that they do not have enough frequencies to undertake these tests and therefore Radio Hope Island must come off the air. It would seem to me that, if you have got $20 and a bit of paper, you can go along to the Australian Broadcasting Authority and get yourself a test licence.

Radio Hope Island came off the air on 1 February and they will be off for four months while these particular groups undertake their test broadcasts. All three of them are in fact headbanging stations, and one of them has a slightly different twist because it is denoted as a dance music station aimed specifically at a gay and lesbian audience. I have nothing against gays and lesbians but I do have some objection to the fact that this particular section of the community, and indeed the young section of the community of the Gold Coast, is over-catered for by radio stations now.

Quite frankly, we do not know whether Radio Hope Island will be able to maintain its present status as a test broadcaster because of the financial implications. They have invested a great deal of money in the equipment and they have expert advice in terms of the quality of their signal. As I say, they have established a very loyal and a very large market, a market that stretches from as far south as Byron Bay to the northern suburbs of Brisbane, because this is the only radio station in this part of the world, and probably the only one in Australia, that plays this particular music format and provides the particular services aimed directly at an over-55-year-old audience.

Under the act the minister has the right to intervene and direct the ABA. I sincerely hope that he does so, even though the minister has never picked up that authority before. There are frequencies available. I believe that the actions of the ABA are an absolute disgrace. I believe that the company that has been formed under their direction to run Radio Hope Island could well have been misled in the advice that they had got in the past. It is one unholy mess, and I would appeal to the minister to act, and to act now, on behalf of those thousands of loyal people over 55 who now are deprived of their radio entertainment because of the action of this particular part of the bureaucracy.