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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 340

Senator WATSON(3.29) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation provides Australians with a wide range of listening and viewing programs of a high quality which reflect its access to resources as a national corporation. For a cost which has been estimated as being 6c per Australian per day, the ABC ably fulfils its responsibilities to the Australian public to provide 'innovative and comprehensive radio and television services of a high standard'. The concern of the ABC for both its program content and for technical excellence in production is reflected in the prominence of ABC staff in media awards sponsored by national and international organisations, among which should be noted an award and a number of citations from the United Nations media peace prizes. The ABC recognises its responsibility not only to continually improve program content and technical services, but also to extend its existing services to more and more members of the Australian public.

The concern of the ABC does not, however, end with Australians. Through Radio Australia networks Australia's national and international interests are constantly represented in the Pacific nations, South East Asia, Indonesia and New Guinea. The popularity of the services provided in Japan is evident by the 6 1/2 thousand letters received from Japanese listeners in the 12 months to July 1984.

Since the ABC received corporate status the reorganisation and separation of radio and television divisions and the subsequent concentration of human, financial and equipment resources have meant that ABC radio has been able to respond to the needs of specialised radio services. However, I believe that the Corporation must be extremely careful not to allow deterioration in the quality of programs by attempting to cover too wide a range of topics and music, some of which are more than adequately catered for by commercial broadcasting stations. ABC Radio 2 offers its listeners cultural, educational, religious, scientific and specialist talks with the aim of reflecting the intellectual diversity of Australian life. It also offers music and comedy services.

Similarly the restructuring of ABC television has resulted in new guidelines for television. Of particular importance to Australians is the directive that the ABC increase its share of prime time television audiences to at least 20 per cent by 1986. The ABC's interest in the community is reflected in its children's programs, its regard for viewing requirements of minority and interest groups within the community and its response to the principles of equal opportunity in terms of employment and programs.

For the second year running, ABC concerts have proven extremely popular with over one million people attending these events during 1983-84. In terms of educational value in broadcasting, the ABC caters for all levels from pre-school to adult, recognising that all age groups continually need to receive new information in order to respond to the challenges of a modern society.

The role of the community is reflected by the invitation in 1983 to interested Australians to nominate for advisory councils. As a consequence, 100 Australians have been appointed to express the interests and aspirations of communities in each State and at a national level. That the ABC is providing programs that contribute to our sense of national identity, to inform and entertain and reflect our cultural diversity, is evidenced in the growing market for Australian produced programs and series overseas.

However, I do have some reservations about the Corporation's move towards centralisation of news services. Already we have seen presidential style government, loss of sovereignty of parliament and for the ABC to move more in this direction is certainly not good for democracy or local participation. Concentration on national issues, perhaps to the point of trivia, will leave limited time for local State news, and may affect the local employment status of newsreaders.