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Tuesday, 2 June 1942

Mr POLLARD - It provides an excellent service.

Mr JOLLY - Only for 3 per cent, of the listening community.

Mr Pollard - No. Subscribers pass it on to their friends.

Mr JOLLY - I cannot believe that. This is a contentious matter, and we should examine the plain facts. It is safe to say that the A B.C. Weekly represents the most expensive form of advertising in the Commonwealth. What business concern would spend such large sums in order to obtain so small a result. In effect, every subscriber to the journal is costing the commission about £1 a year, the amount of the listener's licence-fee. That fact alone suggests that we should discontinue the publication of the journal.

Mr Calwell - The British Broadcasting Corporation publishes the Listener and another journal.

Mr JOLLY - I shall give some facts in relation to those publications in a few minutes. This is a deplorable state of affairs, and, unfortunately, prospects for the future are not very encouraging, as the circulation of the A.B.C. Weekly has steadily declined since its first issue. Unless some drastic alteration can be made to the journal in order to make it more effective and reduce its costs, this wicked waste of public funds must cease. The urgent need to conserve man-power and reduce the consumption of newsprint suggests to me that the whole subject of the publication of radio journals throughout Australia should be submitted to a careful review. At the present time, in addition to the A.B.C. Weekly, which has 40 pages in each issue, there are numerous other weekly radio journals, such as Radio, 69 pages; the Broadcaster, 63 pages; FamilyTeleradio, 75 pages; the Listener In, 23 pages ; Radio Call, 15 pages, Radio Times, 15 pages; Radio Record, 8 pages; and Wireless Weekly, 23 pages. Those with the smallest number of pages have sheets approximately twice the size of those in the other journals.

Mr Calwell - Does the honorable member not consider that the publication of these competing journals involves a terrible waste of paper?

Mr JOLLY - I do. In addition to these journals, programmes are issued by the .Department of Information. It should be possible to evolve a satisfactory method of advertising radio programmes throughout the Commonwealth without the overlapping and duplication which occur at present. I raise this matter because, whilst on the one hand this Government is urging private business concerns to reduce their consumption of paper and the Minister for War Organization of Industry is closing down many businesses, on the other hand we have this overlapping and the wasteful expenditure of large sums of money weekly on a journal which is ineffective and serves only a small section of the community.

Mr Morgan - More money was spent on the A.B.C. Weekly under the previous Government.

Mr JOLLY - I am not criticizing the present Government for the establishment of the journal, but it will stand condemned if it permits this extravagance to continue. I draw attention to the fact that the commission did not disclose the loss sustained on the journal in its published accounts. The figure was apparently covered up among other items of expenditure. It is significant that, in the year prior to the establishment of the journal, the published accounts of the commission showed an item " General expenses, £17,000 " in its profit and loss account. Even the details of expenditure involved in that figure were given. In the next year, after the journal was established, the amount given as expenditure, without any details, was £60,000. I believe that the expenditure on this publication has been distributed over various items in the profit and loss account. It may be that a substantial part of it is included in the salaries item. The revenue from the journal has, of course, been included in the revenue account. In my view, it is most improper to cover up heavy losses of this kind in our public accounts.

Mr Martens - The honorable gentleman is in a bad humour this evening.

Mr JOLLY - I do not think that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr.

Martens) would justify the covering up of heavy losses in the way I have indicated. In the Auditor-General's report for the year ended the 30th June, 1941, I find that the expenses in connexion with the journal are given as £54,863 and the revenue as £22,000. As a matter of fact, the Auditor-.General's report is the only place where I have been able to find any real information about the finances of this journal, and it is disclosed in that document that the expenses have been more than double the revenue. I trust that in future we shall be provided with a clear statement of accounts covering the operations of this publication. We ought to know the details of such heavy losses.

Mr Drakeford - It is not a loss; it is a price for services rendered.

Mr JOLLY - The Minister may so regard it if he pleases, but it is a very heavy price to pay for the publication of a journal which reaches only about 3 per cent, of the holders of listeners' licences.

Mr Drakeford - It is a service of great value.

Mr JOLLY - In my view, the cost of it is unwarranted.

Mr CALWELL - The committee recommended that the journal should be under continuous review by the proposed standing committee on broadcasting.

Mr JOLLY - That may be so, but I consider that something more than a continuous review is required. I do not think that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) can feel satisfied with the present position. This Parliament, and the country at large, are entitled to detailed information concerning the financial position of the publication. Unless the A.B.C. Weekly can render a better service to the community than it has rendered up to date, its publication should be discontinued.

I doubt the wisdom of the provision in the bill for the appointment of a standing parliamentary committee on broadcasting, particularly if it is intended that the committee shall interfere in any way with the control of broadcasting. The present " set-up " is unwieldy enough for we have, first, the general manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, then the commission itself, and then provision for the appointment of State advisory committees. All of these are subject to the Minister. It is now suggested that we should superimpose a parliamentary committee. The fact is that too many people already have a say in the control of broadcasting. What is needed, if we are to achieve the best results, is more concentration and less division of authority.

Mr CALWELL (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - What we have is a system of checks and balances.

Mr JOLLY - I direct attention to the differences between the control of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that of the Postmaster-General's Department, which is the largest as well as one of the most efficient business undertakings in the Commonwealth. Our postal services are under the sole control of a director-general, who is subject only to the Minister. In my view, broadcasting will not he improved by the appointment of a supervisory joint standing committee, particularly if the committee is to interfere with the administration of the commission. If a body of that kind is needed, what justification is there for the commission itself? Personally, I appreciate the good work that the commission has done. No public utility in this country gives such a good return to the public for the fees paid as does the Australian Broadcasting Commission We should be careful not to make the administration of this utility top-heavy.

I am pleased that provision has been made in the bill for the encouragement of local talent, although the quota of 2£ per cent, is not over-generous. I believe that this quota is already being exceeded in the broadcast programmes.

Sir CHARLES MARR (PARKES, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The quota of local talent, is less than 1 oer cent.

Mr JOLLY - Probably the committee reached that conclusion on evidence based on pre-war activities. Present-day difficulties in securing artists from overseas afford an excellent opportunity to encourage local talent, and 1 believe that one result of this will be that we shall become more self-reliant.

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