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Tuesday, 2 June 1942

Sir CHARLES MARR (Parkes) . - The purpose of this bill is, inter alia, to bring under one act the national and commercial systems of broadcasting, each of which is now controlled by a separate act of Parliament. The proposals embodied in the bill are based principally upon the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Broadcasting, and the Postmaster-General (Senator Ashley), when introducing the measure in the Senate, and the Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Beasley) in this chamber made eulogistic references to its work. The members of the committee appreciate those tributes to their efforts, and are grateful to the Government for the manner in which it has acted upon their report. The committee visited every State, with the exception of Western Australia, though it received useful information from witnesses from that State, who came to the eastern States for the express purpose of tendering evidence. The report is based upon the evidence that was taken, and is not the result of the personal views of members of the committee. The useful work that the committee performed illustrates the advantage of the Government appointing a committee thoroughly to examine proposals to amend existing acts before Parliament is asked to sanction them.

The progress in the use of radio, particularly broadcasting, has been phenomenal in the last decade, and only a fool would prophesy what the future holds in this field of science. Having been associated with broadcasting and wireless telegraphy since 1902, I am able to compare authoritatively broadcasting and radio telegraphy in their infancy, with modern ' developments. In the last war, great progress was made in this field. Among other things, members of the Australian and New Zealand Wireless Squadron made and operated what is believed to be the first radio direction-finding instrument in the world, and devised and operated special sets for receiving enemy signals both from the air and through the earth. Those inventions were greatly in advance of the efforts in the same field of other countries. In 1916, the system of wired wireless was inaugurated, and became known as the " phantom wave system ". When introduced into Australia in 1926, it was used commercially, particularly on interstate and intra-state lines of the Post.masterGeneral's Department. The more one studies the science of radio telegraphy, the more one visualizes its future possibilities and how much there is still to learn. It is paradoxical that the more one learns of a science, the more one realizes how little he knows about it. Those who were engaged upon devising a system for the control of radio broadeasting in Australia in its infancy, laid a solid foundation. That is demonstrated by the fact that the Joint Committee on Broadcasting did not recommend drastic alterations of the present method of control, and the bill provides for the continuance of the present dual system of national and commercial stations, though the control of the two will be brought under one act of Parliament. In the early days, 'broadcasting was regarded as a fad and was used purely as a means of entertainment. Now it is an essentia] public utility. Honorable members will recall the days of the crystal sets, before the use of valves became general, and the early problems associated with the granting of licences, and with determining who should listen to the programmes broadcast by various stations. A conference that was convened by the Postmaster-General's Department for the purpose of devising methods of issuing licences, and collecting fees, led to the introduction of the sealed set, which was a failure. To illustrate the progress of radio broadcasting, I point out that only 1,400 listeners' licences were issued in 1924, but this year the number is 1,324,000. Of course, the number of listeners substantially exceeds the number of licences in force. The national broadcasting service is financed entirely from listeners' licencefees, hut commercial stations depend for their revenue almost entirely upon receipts from advertising. If advertising were eliminated, their revenue would be very small. When introducing this bill in the Senate, the Postmaster-General referred to the system of dual control of national and commercial stations, in these words : -

From the investigations of the committee and one's own observations, I have no hesitation in declaring that the present system has been beneficial to the development of broadcasting in Australia viewed from the interests of listeners, and apart altogether from the valuable advantages which have accrued to industry and employment. With the experience of the last nineteen years to guide us and the valuable report of the committee to point the way to certain improvements, we are well equipped to write a charter for the broadcasting services of the Commonwealth which, whilst imposing safeguards against mis-use, will permit sufficient freedom to ensure continued progress for the benefit of the community. Not only will freedom in broadcasting achieve this objective, but it must also be a significant interpretation of the general freedom that defines democracy.

As a part of its investigation, the committee obtained information regarding the broadcasting systems operating in other Empire countries with a view to comparing their suitability for Australian conditions with the existing Australian system. Sir Harry Brown, in his evidence before the committee, very aptly stated that, before any change was made in this country, it should first be demonstrated how the present system had failed. The position in Great Britain is that the stations, eight in all, are under the control of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Listeners in Great Britain have available to them many alternative programmes from Europe, and the extent to which these continental stations are listened to may be gauged from the fact that, up to the outbreak of war, English manufacturers found it worth while to spend £2,000,000 per annum in advertising from two English-controlled stations on the Continent, namely, Radio Nor.mandie and Radio Luxembourg. In Canada, the dual system operates, as in Australia, with the commercial stations under some measure of control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation which is the counterpart of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Information was supplied to the committee, however, to show that the Canadian broadcasting system is neither one thing nor the other. Although a parliamentary committee recommended as far back as 1929 that broadcasting stations should be nationalized, because of the fear that otherwise they would be subject to control from the United States, even now there are only ten national stations in Canada, and 'the only practicable method of having a nation-wide broadcast i3 to utilize a large number of the privatelyowned stations. In Australia the position is entirely different, as the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs informed the committee that 85 per cent, of listeners are served directly at present by the national stations and that, when additional national stations which are proposed are completed, all listeners will be able to listen in direct to national stations. Commercial stations serve 90 per cent, of listeners, and thus it will be seen that practically every listener in Australia is able to have the choice of at least one alternative programme from either a national or a commercial station. Another feature of Canadian broadcasting is its dependence upon the United States of America for its programmes, and many Canadians are also regular listeners to the large American stations. In 1940, it was stated that 34 per cent, of programmes on Canadian stations originated in the United States, where the whole of the broadcasting stations are privately owned. The system in New Zealand was also investigated, but conditions in New Zealand and Australia are so different as to make any comparison of little value. In that dominion the government owns both the national and commercial sta- tions, but there are only five commercial stations, and no attempt has been made to provide a commercial service in rural areas as has been done in this country. In addition, there are very few more listeners in the whole of New Zealand than there are in Sydney. Further, New Zealand is almost wholly dependent upon outside sources for its programme material and, in 1940, Australian recording companies and broadcasting stations sold to New Zealand a total of 5,352 programmes. In Australia practically all programmes, excepting gramophone records, which are broadcast by either national or commercial stations are produced locally, thus providing considerable direct and indirect employment. In South Africa, the stations are national, only. . The system was inaugurated by a former chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation, but the service to the community cannot be compared with that received by listeners in this country. Stations are few and in some areas the programmes, of necessity, have to be in both the English and Dutch languages. The information which the committee obtained regarding these other systems, therefore, merely confirmed the fact that the present system is eminently suitable for Australian conditions, isolated as we are from other countries so that listeners, except for short-wave overseas programmes, are dependent upon the programmes from our own stations.

The committee interrogated practically all witnesses as to whether or not they favoured nationalization. There were quite a few criticisms, mainly on programme matter and the like, but, almost without exception, witnesses- favoured the continuation of the existing dual system and were opposed to any suggestion that the commercial stations should be nationalized or that they should be under the control of the Broadcasting Commission. Expert witnesses of the Postmaster-General's Department, including Mr. McVey, expressed similar views. Sir Harry Brown, the exDirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, submitted that no reasons had been advanced for changing the present system. Evidence was also given to the committee of the pleasant relations existing between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting stations. On most occasions, the national and commercial stations have their own particular spheres of operation, but, since the war particularly, there have been numerous occasions when the two systems have operated together in the national interest so as to provide the fullest service to listeners. It can well be said that the founders of the broadcasting system in this country showed a wide knowledge of Australian requirements, and the best evidence of the excellent manner in which the interests of listeners have been served in this country is that the committee after eight months of critical investigation has only found it necessary to formulate recommendations of a relatively minor character.

In my opinion the committee's report has been submitted in a readable form. All the recommendations are at the beginning of the report instead of scattered through it, as is often the case with reports of parliamentary committees. The committee paid close attention to three matters closely allied to broadcasting, namely, television, facsimile, and frequency. People talk about those things freely, but without much knowledge. The committee's inquiries were not nearly so deep as we should have liked, but, if the bill be passed and a standing committee be set up, those three matters will be further investigated. The investigations will take a considerable time - probably years. I refer honorable members to page 69 of the report, in which the committee has dealt with television. Television has been operated in several countries since before the war, but up to the present it has been more of a rich man's toy than a. means of public entertainment. Television will never become popular until it has reached the stage at which pictures can be transmitted over much greater distances than is possible at present. Television has no attraction for the woman in the home, who at present may switch on her radio set and listen to a musical programme without having to confine her entire attention to it. She could not do this with television, because it would then be necessary for her to keep her eyes glued to the set so as not to lose the sequence of the fleeting pictures reproduced on its screen.

Another branch of the science which the committee considers to have even greater possibilities, though perhaps greater dangers, than television is facsimile reproduction. Facsimile reproduction by means of radio and telegraph already operates. Honorable members have frequently seen pictures of events in Great Britain published in the daily newspapers, or pictures of important race events such as the Melbourne Cup published in the newspapers of other States on the following day. This is done by the use of a system of reproduction involving the application of wireless waves to pictures. The system may be developed for the benefit of ordinary householders, so that printed words and pictures may be sent into every home by means of special apparatus attached to both the transmitting stations and receiving sets. It would be of particular benefit to residents of outback areas, who could turn on their radio sets before starting work each day and could return later to find miniature newspapers containing reproductions of reports 'and pictures published in the newspapers in the cities that day. .

Mr Perkins - The honorable member is looking far .ahead. .Sir CHARLES MARR.- The system is already in use in a small way. If an honorable member from Sydney wished to cash a cheque at >a bank in Western Australia where his signature was unknown, he could have it verified by communicating with his bank manager in Sydney and having a facsimile of his signature transmitted by radio. This system is not used extensively, but it is reliable. There are great difficulties in the way of bringing facsimile reproduction into the field of wireless broadcasting. The committee stated, in regard to both television and facsimile reproduction, that, no further licences for the use of these sciences in broadcasting should be granted until the proposed parliamentary committee had inquired at length into them. I now refer to frequency modulation. Although these words may appear to convey a great deal to the uninitiated, those who understand wireless broadcasting realize that the problems involved in frequency, modulation are very complex. There is much room for development in this field. The committee dealt with the subject very clearly in the following passage of its report: -

One of the great problems that face the Adminstration is the allocation of wavelengths for stations, there being a waiting list of 695 applications. Practically speaking, the whole of those available have been allotted or set aside for a specific purpose.

Evidence given discloses that the difficulty can only be overcome by sharing the wavelengths now operating, restricting and sharing the times of operation, or by restricting power and, as far as possible, limiting the areas to be covered by individual stations.

However, a new system has been evolved, known as frequency modulation, that may in the near future completely solve this problem. Evidence shows that this system is now applied in a moderate way in the United States of America, and, but for the war, may have been operating in Australia.

Unfortunately, new types of transmitters and receivers will be necessary for those 'desiring to utilize this new method of transmission. Listening sets in the future will probably make provision for this by covering the three bands - short, medium and frequency modulation. (These sets are available to-day.) This system claims that many hundreds of additional wavelengths will be made available for new stations.

However, we do not attempt to prophesy what will happen in radio development in the future, nor do we propose in this report to cover the technical difficulties that lie in the way of future expansion in radio. We recommend that no licences for frequency modulation stations be issued until a full investigation has been made by the proposed parliamentary standing committee.

I believe that every honorable member has, at some time, taken an interest in the subject of copyright in relation to broadcasting, and I believe that I should be correct in saying that almost every honorable member regards the Australasian Performing Right Association, and similar organizations in other countries, as being monopolies for the collection of huge fees which ought to be payable to those persons who contribute, by writing and performance, to broadcast items. The committee heard a great deal of expert evidence on the subject of copyright, and it visited the offices of the Australasian Performing Right Association. It was thus able to see how returns are made by the broadcasting stations, the method of entering the performances of copyright music controlled by the Australasian Performing Right Association, and how the fees are paid to the composers, authors and publishers. In my opinion, the system of having one organization of composers, authors and publishers properly authorized to look after their performing rights is the only practical one. From the evidence that the committee heard, it seems that this principle is fully recognized in most parts of the world. It is not difficult to see the logic of the case because, if broadcasting stations, relying as they do on the use of a vast quantity of music, had to deal with individual owners of copyright all over the world, they would have a job involving expense far greater than they are called upon to bear under the accepted method. The committee recommended that there should be an Australian fee payable to the Australasian Performing Right Association, but it did not suggest that this should be a fee for each listener's licence. This point needs to be made clear, because the arrangement between the Australasian Performing Right Association and the commercial stations, which has operated for many years, has been on the basis of a payment for each musical item broadcast. Thus, the commercial stations pay strictly in accordance with the quantity of music that they broadcastEvidence given to the committee on their behalf was to the effect that their agreement, which has some years to run, is satisfactory. The position of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, however, is different, because the commission receives its income from the listener's licence revenue, and, in this case, payment of a fee to the Australasian Performing Right Association for each licence would probably be satisfactory. The " fee-per-licence " system has operated for many years in the United Kingdom, and it was confirmed by the finding of arbitrators, to whom the question of the amount per licence payable to the Performing Right, Society in London was voluntarily submitted for decision in 1937. In my opinion, the amount paid by both broadcasting services for the use of any of the music in the Australasian Performing Right Association repertoire is very small. Both in this House and elsewhere we have heard complaints that the Australasian Performing Right Association receives a very substantial sum of money annually, but the matter should he examined in the light of the number of stations using the music and the number of performances that they give. When that information is available, one sees, from the enormous volume of music that isbroadcast, that the payment for each performance is almost beggarly. The inquiries of the committee revealed that the Australian writer who received the largest amount in any one year was paid only about £80 for his work. Considerable numbers of composers and authors received amounts as low as 2s. 6d. for the year. That is doubtless due to thefact that Australian composers and authors are in a great minority. We discovered that they numbered less than 1 per cent. of the composers and authors whose works were used. At one stage, early in its investigations, the committee considered that it might be practicable to recommend that broadcasting stations should use not less than 10 per cent. of material derived from Australian sources, but it was not long before that opinion was revised. The committee has recommended that it should be compulsory for broadcasting stations to use 2½ per cent. of Australian material, but I fear that some difficulty may be experienced, in the immediate future at any rate, in reaching even that percentage. However, this is a step in the right direction which, no doubt, will encourage Australian composers and writers, for they will be helped by the knowledge that broadcasting stations will be obliged to use a greater percentage of Australian material than they have used in the past. Undoubtedly music is the most popular feature, and supplies, the bulk of all broadcast programmes. In fact, if music were not available the broadcasting stations would find it extremely difficult to maintain continuity of programmes. The committee was unanimously of the opinion that composers of music should be granted fair recognition and that, up to date, they had not received it. In making that statement, I do not suggest that the rights of the broadcasting authorities should be overlooked. As music is such an important factor in all broadcast programmes and therefore plays a big part in our community life, the broadcasting stations should be protected against exorbitant demands from the controllers of music, especially as that control is practically in the hands of one organization. Legal provision has been made for voluntary arbitration where a dispute arises between broadcasters and owners of copyright music, and, as I see it, our act complies with the spirit of the international understanding that was approved at the Rome Congress in 1928, but the fact must not be overlooked that it is expressly provided that the fees fixed shall ensure adequate compensation to those concerned. That does not mean, I imagine, adequate compensation in a round sum, but reasonable payment to individuals whose rights are vested in one organization.

Since the report of the committee has been made public I have been informed that it would be almost impossible for the broadcasting stations to obtain from the manufacturers of records in this country the supply of records that would be needed to maintain the quota of Australian music recommended by the committee. That aspect of the subject will doubtless require some investigation. Personally I believe that it will be practicable to obtain the 2½ per cent. recommended by the committee. If the supply of records is insufficient for this purpose at the moment, I believe that the records manufacturers in Australia will soon meet the position.

Mr Sheehan - Does not the Australian Broadcasting Commission manufacture its own records ?

Sir CHARLES MARR - No. Only one firm in Australia is making records at present. Although the PostmasterGeneral's Department has facilities for making recordings for the commission of speeches and other broadcasts, it does not manufacture records in the ordinary sense in which we understand the term.

I wish to refer briefly to the two systems of broadcasting in Australia. I shall deal first with the national system. The Australian Broadcasting Commission, which controls the national broadcasting stations, has proved itself to be most efficient and, in my view, it has done excellent work. I speak in the broadest sense when I say that since its inception the commission has done an excellent job. Personally, I give to the chairman of the commission full marks for his ability and leadership in broadcasting. He has endeavoured to place broadcasting on a high plane and, to a considerable degree, he has succeeded. In this respect he and his fellow commissioners deserve our congratulations on the progress that they have made. Particularly good work has been done in the educational sphere. But whilst the commission's educational broadcasts have undoubtedly been most efficient, I regret to say that the facilities in educational institutions for receiving and making use of the broadcasts are appallingly inadequate. The broadcasts are made practically free. Educational institutions are required, in certain instances, to procure booklets to use in conjunction with the broadcasts, and these publications by the Australian Broadcasting Commission are also excellent productions. It is not too much to say that the six members of the committee were deeply impressed by the quality of the educational broadcasts of the commission. Theywere impressed, too, by the interest that has been aroused amongst school children in the performances of the symphony orchestra conducted by Professor Bernard Heinze. The committee attended several symphony concerts arranged in Melbourne by the commission, and we were surprised to learn of the competition among children for selection to attend those concerts. Extraordinarily fine work has been done by the commission in this connexion. The organizing of these symphony concerts is a monument to the leadership of the chairman of the commission.

One clause of the bill provides for the establishment of the head-quarters of the commission at Canberra. The committee made a recommendation to that effect.. I consider that the head-quarters of our government services, and quasigovernment services, should be at the National Capital. The committee does not suggest that the Government should take immediate action to give effect to this recommendation. We are in the middle of a war - we hope beyond the middle of it - but we have to look at everything with the war in mind. The committee considers that when the Government is in a position to make provision on the Estimates for the expenditure of a large sum of money for the. establishment of the permanent head-quarters of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the necessary buildings should be erected in Canberra and not in one of the State capitals.

The committee was told that undue influence was sometimes brought to bear on the commission to make appointments to its staffby back-door methods. For that reason, the committee recommended - and I am glad that the Government has accepted its recommendation - that in respect of all except the higher positions appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission shall be subject to the same procedure as obtains in connexion with appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service. In future, appointments will follow competitive examinations in which rich and poor will have an equal chance. Employees of the commission also asked for a board of appeal similar to that which operates in connexion with the Commonwealth Public Service.

Mr Perkins - What is the number of the commission's employees?

Sir CHARLES MARR - The employees number 620, distributed in this way: Federal staff, 164, in New South. Wales 135, in Victoria 125,. in South Australia 57, in Tasmania 47, in Western Australia 41, and in Queensland 51, a total of 620. On the A.B.C. Weekly the staff numbers 24, making a. grand total of 644.

Mr Jolly - Does that number include artists?

SIR CHARLES MARR - No. I am speaking of the. regular staff, many of whom are engaged in arranging the various programmes tobe broadcast.

Evidence in support of the creation of a national orchestra, to travel throughout, the Common wealth, was submitted to the committee, but there was equally strong evidence against such a proposal. Persons who are competent to speak on this subject told the committee that the establishment of one orchestra for the whole of Australia would not conduce to the development of musical talent in the several States. They contended that it. would be better to form an orchestra in each State.

Mr Perkins - How many of the employees of the Commission could be transferred to Canberra?

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