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Thursday, 15 November 1973
Page: 1880


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - It is getting towards the hour at which the Senate rises. I appreciate the comments made by Senator Laucke when he said that the Opposition does not intend to oppose the Bill. Normally in those circumstances I would say that I appreciate the easy passage of the Bill. But because of the lateness of the hour and having regard to Senator Hannan 's comments and his desire to have his name recorded as being opposed to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, I intend to take some of the time of the Senate to make one or two observations. Firstly, let me say that as a result of the proposed increase in the initial licence fee from $50 to $200 for each individual commercial broadcasting station- there being 1 1 8 of them- it is expected that an extra $60,000 will go into Consolidated Revenue. The additional estimated $60,000 will arise from the expected increase in the revenues of the 118 commercial broadcasting stations throughout Australia in the year 1 973-74.

I think Senator Laucke made mention of the fact that there are comparatively no marginal stations. Honourable senators will observe that, in relation to the revenue accruing to Consolidated Revenue from advertising receipts by broadcasting stations, it is not proposed to impose a percentage increase on the gross earnings of stations earning advertising revenue up to $500,000. So, in fact, in relation to all stations earning less than $500,000 a year- that is the greatest proportion of them; and, frankly, I think the Government is being very generous in its attitude in this regard- there will be an increase of a mere $3 a week. There has been no increase in this type of taxation on the stations since 1964. So, from 1964 until this financial year- a period of a decade- the actual additional impost in taxation of this nature on the commercial broadcasting stations has been comparatively little. To say the least, it has been infinitesimal.

Whilst it is true, as Senator Hannan says, that in 1971 the number of commercial broadcasting stations showing a loss was 9, and in 1972 the number of commercial broadcasting stations showing a loss was 19, 1 am sure that the honourable senator will agree with me on 2 things: In that financial year there were very serious economic circumstances existing in many of the rural areas. This was at a time when national advertisers were quite loath to expend the amount of money they previously were expending with certain rural radio stations. This year has been a year of considerable buoyancy in the rural areas. The wheat crop is good and additional sales have been effected. Also, additional sales of wool have been effected to Japan. Generally speaking, the buoyancy of the rural economy has picked up considerably. I suggest that this is likely to have a substantial or at least some economic effect on those commercial broadcasting stations that were affected in the year 1 97 1 -72.

Unfortunately, I do not have the figures available to me to show the net result before taxation of those stations in existence in 1964. I would have had other figures available had I known that the Bill was to be debated at this late hour. The lastest figures available to me at this stage are those for 1968 which show that the revenue for 114 stations was $8m. In 1972 the net revenue result before taxation of 118 stations was nearly $ 12m. As the honourable senator will appreciate, this represents nearly 50 per cent increase in net result.


Senator Hannan - Gross result, is it not?

Senator DOUGLASMcCLELLANDNonet result before taxation but after paying the licence fee. Over the last 5 years the net result has been increased by some 50 per cent. If the position were the same from 1 964 to 1 968-1 am not saying that it was- it would mean that in that decade there was a 100 per cent increase in profits. Here we find a situation in which the commercial broadcasting stations have not had an additional impost made upon them since 1964. Senator Hannan was formerly a part time member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I know that he has a considerable knowledge of the broadcasting and television industry. He will appreciate that this type of revenue is used basically for the purpose of financing the operations and activities of the Broadcasting Control Board. Because there has been a substantial increase in the number of broadcasting stations and television stations and because the workload now thrown on the Broadcasting Control Board is significantly greater than it was a decade ago, it is only natural that an increase in the revenue required to enable the Broadcasting Control Board to continue to give the very effective service that it gives to the Australian people is necessary.

Senator Hannanmentioned the subject of frequency modulation. True it is that the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which has been charged by the Senate to inquire into all aspects of radio and television has presented an interim report and has suggested that a second look should be given at the recommendations of the Broadcasting Control Board on frequency modulation. I think that I told the honourable senator by way of an answer during question time that some time earlier than that I had put a submission to Cabinet. It was on 25 September that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that the Government would be establishing another independent committee.


Senator Hannan - I commend the Government for that.


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I appreciate that. I am just mentioning to the honourable senator that I am hoping that my colleague, the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) and I will be in a position later this evening to make a further announcement on that matter. I believe that the Government has been more than reasonable in considering the extent and the amount of the increases imposed in relation to this matter. I appreciate that the Opposition is not opposing the legislation. Therefore, I suggest that the motion that the Bill be now read a second time be put to a vote.







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