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Thursday, 28 April 1932

Mr PRICE - Mrs. Snowdendid excellent work as a member of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and her success would warrant a similar appointment in Australia. In Great Britain the governors have full control of the appointments of executive officers. The charter reads -

The corporation shall appoint such officers andstaff as they may think necessary ( including any Director-General who may be appointed in succession to the first Director-General) for the official transaction of their business and shall fix such rates of remuneration as they think proper.

This ensures freedom of the personnel from political or official influence. I contrast that provision with clause 15, sub-clause 2 -

The salaries payable to the general manager and the nextsix most highly paid executive officers of the commission shall be subject to the approval of the Minister.

I would prefer that they be made by the commission.

Mr Forde - Does not the honorable member think that the Minister would act reasonably on the recommendation of the commission ?

Mr PRICE - The present PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fenton) is a most reasonable man, but as a general principle I wouldprefer that the responsibility of making appointments should rest with the commission.

Mr Fenton - The Postmaster-General in Great Britain has more control of the British Broadcasting Corporation than the Minister will have of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Mr PRICE - Does clause 15 guarantee freedom from political control? Is it not more likely to lead to the preferment of nominees of officials and politicians ?

Mr Fenton - The Director-General in Great Britain was appointed by the Government.

Mr PRICE - There is wide disparity between the objects for which the British Broadcasting Corporation was established, namely -

To do all such other things as the corporation may deem incidental or conducive to the attainment of or the exercise of any of the, powers of the corporation. and the intention of this bill, clause 17 of which provides -

Subject to this act, the commission may do such acts and things as it deems incidental or conducive to the proper exploitation of those things which maybe beneficial to broadcast programmes but shall not engage in any subsidiary business which, in the opinion of the Minister, is not desirable or necessary for the purpose for which the commission was established.

The British Broadcasting Corporation is authorized by its charter -

To acquire . . . any undertakings, stations, plant and assets which may be necessary or convenient for carrying out the objects of the corporation . .. to purchase, take on lease, or in exchange hire or otherwise acquire any real and personal property which the corporation may think necessary or convenient.

This bill provides that the commission -

Shall not without the approval of the Minister acquire any property thecost of Requisition of which exceeds £5,000 . . . enter into any least' for a. period of move thanfive years.

I have picked out some examples of the contrasts between the bill and the British charter. Others may be found, but as the charter provides for the British Broadcasting Corporation to administer and control the whole of the service, whereas this bill, in essence, does no more than empower a commission to control the programmes, further comparisons are difficult. What I have said, however, is sufficient to show that the claim that the proposed commission will be similar to the British corporation, and that the bill is based on the British charter, is misleading.

A similar divergence is found again in the provisions relating to finance. The charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation requires the Postmaster-General to pay to the corporation annually a sum equal to the following percentages of all sums received by him from licences: -In respect of the first one million licences or fractional part thereof issued against payment in the year, 90 per cent.; in respect of the second million licences, 80 per cent.; in respect of the third million licences, 70 per cent.; and in respect of all additional licences, 00 per cent. A deduction of 12½ per cent. on account of the cost of collection is made before the calculation of these percentages. This bill proposes to create a broadcasting commission fund into which shall be paid from time to time out of Consolidated Revenue 12s. in respect of each listener's licence-fee received, this amount to continue to be paid in each subsequent year unless some other amount is fixed by the Minister. On the 10th March last, I asked of the Postmaster-General the following questions, the answers to which explain the Australian position : -

1.   What is the present annual cost of a wireless licence?

2.   What amount was received from wireless licences for last year?

3.   What other source of revenue is there in connexion with wireless, and what was the amount received for last year?

4.   How was the money distributed?

I received from the Minister the following replies: -

1.   The fees for broadcasting listeners' licences are (a) 24s. in zone 1. i.e., within 250 miles from a station of the National Broadcasting Service; and (b) 17s.6d. in zone 2, which embraces the remaining territory.

2.   For the year ended 30th June, 1931, the receipts were £397,303.

3.   There is no other source of revenue for the National Broadcasting Service.

4.   The distribution of the revenue referred to in 2 is as follows: - Commonwealth, £1 46,673; Australian Broadcasting Company, £200,504; Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, £50,126.

There are many things connected with the operations of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited which should be explained, and I hope that, in the near future, the position of that company will be made quite clear.

I recently asked the Postmaster-General the following questions about the activities of the Performing Right Association : -

1.   Is he in a position to inform the House how the Performing Eight Association is constituted ?

2.   Is this association registered; if so, where?

3.   What are the names of the directors or executive officers ?

4.   What is the amount of levy this association extracts from each listener's licence?

5.   What is the total amount involved?

I received the following replies: -

1.   The Australian Performing Right Association is the agent for the English Performing Right Society, and, through the latter body, represents the Performing Right Society of 39 countries. It is a limited company registered in New South Wales, with liability limited to £10 in the event of winding up. Its function is to collect fees and pass them on to the owners less the cost of collection.

2.   See answer to No. 1.

3.   The directors are - R.Nathan (chairman), E. Lashmar (representing the English Performing Right Society), C. Darling, W. Bassett, and George Sutherland. The secretary is S. W. Edwards.

4.   On the first 250,000 licences, 2s. per licence; 250,001 to 300.000 licences,1s.6d. per licence; thereafter,1s. per licence.

5.   On the number of licences at present in force (347,555). the annual payment would be £31,000.

Mr Stewart - The number of licences has now increased to 350,000.

Mr PRICE - There were 347,555 licences in force on the 15th March, 1932. and I am glad to learn that the number has been increased since then. I am not satisfied with the present arrangement in respect of performing rights, and I favour an exhaustive inquiry into the activities of the Performing Right Association. There are other matters to which I would like to refer; but as there appears to be a general desire to discuss the bill in committee,I shall avail myself of the opportunity later. I hope that this legislation, as finally amended, will operate in the interests of the people of Australia, and lead to the advancement of wireless generally.

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