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Wednesday, 3 November 1976

Mr SHIPTON (Higgins) -A tragedy is being enacted daily on Australian television. I refer to the standard of children's television. The Austraiian Broadcasting Control Board states that the decline in the use by stations of kindergarten material is regrettable. The House of Representatives Select Committee on Specific Learning Difficulties stated that there is a need to improve the overall quality of recreational and educational programs on television for children and that 'there is evidence that television if used constructively can be beneficial in helping and motivating more people to read and can also be used in community education programs'. I personally believe that television is a distraction for children and, as such, can inhibit children in becoming literate. The habit of reading children a bedtime story regrettably is declining. Television is taking its place and therefore must play a role equally important to that of the bedtime story. Morning and night, all television stations show unsuitable programs when children are viewing. I see little value in programs such as The Flintstones and / Dream of Jeannie

There is also a trend amongst young children to watch television early in the morning. At the invitation of my young son recently I watched a program called Thunderbird which was preceded by a horrible, ghoulish movie. I suggest that probably many parents do not know that their children are creeping out to watch television early in the morning. Some people say that the responsibility is on parents to control their children; but, whilst parents do have a role, the Government has a responsibility to ensure that proper standards are maintained. I was pleased that the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) yesterday, in answer to a question from me, said that the Green report on broadcasting was concerned mainly with the structure of broadcasting and that the question of standards would follow. Many people are concerned that the Green report will mean a lowering of standards. I am sure that this will not be so. I can assure the House that I for one want to see an improvement in and a raising of standards, and I know of others who want the same. I spoke to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, who has just left the House, about this subject and he assured me that the Green report would not bring about a decline in the standard of children's programs on television in Australia. I can assure those who are interested that the existing standards will be maintained and, hopefully, will be enforced and, even more importantly, that there will be a tightening of the standards.

I have also discussed with the Minister the question of children's television generally. I understand that a number of submissions were made to the Green Committee on this subject. Whilst the Green report does not refer to them, apparently because this subject was not within the realm of that report, these submissions are valuable. I have taken up with the Minister the question whether these can be made available and so add to the general debate on children's television in Australia. I am hopeful that he will make these available in some way. I have had a very favourable response from him. There are many people who are concerned about the standard of children's television. The Standing Commission on Television of the Victorian Council for Children's Films and Television has been active and is seeking on all channels a time between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. when only appropriate children's programs will be shown. Mrs Guest, as president of that organisation has been prominent in putting forward these views. This idea must be considered seriously. However, I do not believe that advertisements should be banned at such times. I believe that advertisements can motivate and inform and that commercial stations and advertisers can respond to the challenge in this area and help to create a better society.

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