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Wednesday, 28 October 1964

Senator ORMONDE (New South Wales) . - My remarks will be related to Division No. 835.


Senator ORMONDE - Yes. It will be difficult for me to relate my remarks to the proposed expenditure, but I shall do so as 1 go along. I am not challenging your ruling. Mr. Temporary Chairman, but I find it difficult to inquire about the entry in a column of an amount of money, when I have an idea how to increase that amount. For instance the total proposed expenditure for Broadcasting and Television Services is £22,338,000. The case that I shall put up in the next few minutes will be made in an attempt to show that in the interests of the taxpayers and the Government the amount could be considerably increased if the Commission - which is, in effect, the Government in relation to these matters-

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - The honorable senator is really referring to the total proposed expenditure of £22,338,000.

Senator ORMONDE - I am referring to Division No. 835. The Commission's broadcasting and television services are financed from licence fees paid by the taxpayers. Possibly there would not be such a great drain on the taxpayers, and the Commission's organisation would be assisted, if it ware able to tap a great source of income in this field, which is left to the commercial stations. The Commission's radio and television services cater almost solely for the minorities in the community - musical, cultural or political. That is the role in which the Commission seems to be cast.

Senator Wright - What casts it in that role?

Senator ORMONDE - I think it has cast itself. My association with many persons connected with the Commission gives me the impression that they believe that they exist to look after the minorities. The minorities might be the best part of the community - I am not debating that point - but there is no income from them. One does not build up stations by catering for minorities. I am not being critical. I want the Commission to be able to earn money from other sources. A few days ago I heard an announcement that half an hour would be devoted to chess players. They might be an important part of the community but I do not think their numbers are large enough to warrant a special session. However, they have to be looked after.

Senator Wright - How does that affect the Commission's revenue?

Senator ORMONDE - It builds up its character as a caterer for minorities that other stations will not cater for. In the field of football, the Commission looks after Rugby Union, which is the minority game, and not Rugby League. No doubt in Melbourne it looks after Australian Rules. I want honorable senators to remember that 1 am on the Commission's side. In establishing stations, who goes out into the mulga? Who goes to the mountains where reception is bad and where few people live? Of course, the commercial stations do not go to those places. They go only where there is money. If there is not a pound in it, they do not go.

Senator Buttfield - Eleven commercial stations are not making profits.

Senator ORMONDE - Commercial stations do not pioneer radio or television services. All of this pioneering work is left to the Commission and to the taxpayers.

Senator Buttfield - No, it is not.

Senator ORMONDE - Most of it is. A few days ago we were discussing a station at Cooma. Would a commercial station be established there? No, because there is no guarantee of a profit. So the Commission is to establish a national station there, and, of course, the taxpayers will be finding the money. Senator Wright should be supporting me and not looking askance at me. I am a pupil of his in these matters. However, as I have said, the pioneering and installation of stations is left to the Government instrumentality. I think the commercial stations should do their share, despite what Senator Buttfield has said.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission has left the advertising field to the commercial stations through no fault of its own. The Commission states that it does not want to get into this field on principle but in fact it is already in the advertising field because it has a profitable publication, the " T.V. Times ", which has almost a monopoly in its own right. That breaks the principle that the Commission has no advertising revenue. As a matter of fact, it could have more. Senator Wright will be interested to know that the total amount expended on newspaper advertising in Australia last year was £65 million. Money spent on television advertising by commercial interests totalled £21 million but none of it went to the A.B.C. Other expenditure on advertising in Aus tralia last year included nearly £13 million on radio advertising, £3 million on cinema advertising which is on the way out and £10 million on other forms of advertising. Altogether about £112 million was paid in Australia last year for advertising space in newspapers, or for time on television and radio. The Australian Broadcasting Commission did not get a penny of it. It was cut up between the commercial interests. I suggest that it is about time Parliament considered allowing the Government instrumentality to move into this field and build up its income. It should not continue to be the habitual practice for the Government, through its television and radio stations, to do all the expensive things and to supply all the cultural and minority needs in the community. I think these activities should be distributed around the commercial stations as well.

Senator McClelland - Does the £112 million spent on advertising include Government advertising?

Senator ORMONDE - -So I am told.

Senator Drake-Brockman - Where did the honorable senator get those figures?

Senator ORMONDE - From the advertising agencies. The figures are official. This is a big field to be left untapped by the Government television and radio stations. I think it is wrong to leave it untapped and the Government should do something about it. If it were left to the commercial stations, they would not do much about raising the musical tastes of the Australian public. The commercial stations become involved in and seek to exploit the things with popular appeal such as the Beatles and similar features which appeal to youth. It is left to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to organise youth concerts at a cost of £89,000.

I do not want to be critical of all that the Commission does and I am only critical in a constructive way, but here is a way in which a principle can be extended. The Australian Broadcasting Commission runs its youth concerts and for £5 19s. 6d. annual subscription, a subscriber can attend 10 concerts and see some of the world's best artists. The admission fee is as low as 8s. which is about the lowest average cost of admission to such entertainment. Virtually anybody can go to these concerts. I do not say that other entrepreneurs do not bring artists to Australia. That is done by various agents and theatrical interests but the admission prices are high if the artists are good. The A.B.C. this year will bring about 16 famous artists from overseas to give concerts to Australian youth. There are about 12,000 permanent members on the subscription concert list of the A.B.C.

Another activity of the Commission which costs money covers various orchestras and lours made by them. Artists from overseas have made tours all over Australia. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra gave a series of concerts last year. This is important work that the commercial stations do not do. The orchestra gave concerts at Canberra, Albury, Armidale, Bathurst, Broken Hill, Goulburn, Lismore, Newcastle, Tamworth, Wagga, Wollongong, and at Wangaratta in Victoria. The Victorian Symphony Orchestra gave a concert series at Ballarat, Geelong, Horsham, Hamilton, Sale and Shepparton, and will make a similar tour this year. The total cost of all concerts to the A.B.C. was £378,340. This, of course, has an application to the estimates under discussion. The Government is spending more than £378,000 to send these orchestras into the country. The revenue from these concerts last year was £294,742 so there was a net loss of about £83,000. That is what the Government is doing through its instrumentality and through its television and radio stations. In addition, the New South Wales Government and city councils have subsidised symphony orchestras to the total amount of £155,879.

This work is of great value to the people of Australia and every member of this Parliament would like to see it continued. But we should not blind ourselves to the fact that while the Government is sponsoring these activities through its instrumentality, the commercial stations do not do very much unless they can see a pound in it.

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