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Tuesday, 10 October 1972
Page: 1382


The PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.


Senator GREENWOOD - This report results from an inquiry which was conducted at the direction of the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board into the possibility of frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia. The inquiry attracted a great deal of interest, and the Board heard 70 witnesses and considered some 150 written submissions. In addition, the Board itself undertook, through its Technical Services Division, an exhaustive examination of the technical problems involved, which are unique to this country. The result is a comprehensive report which the Government accepts as a blueprint for the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia.

Briefly, the Board recommends that frequency modulation broadcasting be introduced in this country in the UHF band, where there is sufficient space for the service to be utilised to its full potential. The Board notes that this decision means that a great deal of fundamental planning will have to be done to prepare adequate technical standards, and the Government has asked the Board to put this work, which is estimated to take 3 years, in hand immediately. The Government has accepted in principle the Board's recommendation that frequency modulation broadcasting should provide a second regional service for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, planned as far as possible to cover the entire population. The introduction of this service will overcome a serious deprivation which has been suffered by country listeners, who have available to them a less comprehensive service from the national broadcasting organisation - the Australian Broadcasting Commission - than do city people. This lack has always been of concern to both the Government and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and I am very pleased to announce that it will now be overcome.

Opportunity will also be taken to provide an FM station, devoted mainly to the broadcast of fine music, to be operated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in the capital cities. The Board has also recommended, and the Government has agreed in principle, that provision should be made for commercial FM services throughout the country. The Board has put forward proposals designed both to ensure that these services will be economically viable, and also to encourage new managements and new ideas. These proposals will require careful consideration. The Board has also recommended the establishment of a new kind of broadcasting station - to be known, it is suggested, as public broadcasting stations. These stations, it is proposed, would be conducted on a non-profit basis, to cater for educational, professional, musical, religious, and other like interests. The Board has proposed that the transmitters for these stations should preferably be operated by the Government, with time apportioned between interested groups by a representative committee of management. The Board has not attempted to spell out the method of operating these stations in detail at this stage. The Government accepts the fact that there is a demand in the community for the services of such stations, and will look to the Board to put forward detailed proposals in due course.

As I said, the preliminary technical work to establish an FM service in the UHF band will take approximately 3 years, and this will start immediately. Contemporaneously with the technical investigations, the Board will develop, in association with the Postmaster-General's Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, coverage plans for the national service, and will also prepare proposals for commercial stations and for the public broadcasting stations. As soon as the technical standards have been promulgated, it is hoped that the Government will be able to invite applications for licences for both commercial and public stations - and the first of the necessary public inquiries should be held in 1976. With regard to the national service, it is proposed that it should be developed as the work of converting the Australian Broadcasting Commission's television stations to colour is completed.

Finally, I should emphasise that the introduction of FM will not be permitted to hinder such further development of the present medium frequency services as may be possible. As the Postmaster-General 1 have often stated, the possibilities in this band are very limited, but there is no doubt that the existing AM stations will be the principal source of radio service for many years, and they should be developed to the maximum extent possible. However frequency modulation broadcasting represents a significant advance in broadcasting techniques, and, when it is developed, as it will be, in the UHF band where sufficient space is available for many stations, it will offer a broadcasting service which the Government is confident will serve this country's needs for entertainment, information and education for very many years.







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