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Tuesday, 22 October 1974
Page: 1835


Senator DEVITT (TASMANIA) - Has the Minister for the Media read recent reports of proceedings at a public inquiry into allegations of suppression of news about the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Prices report on soaps and detergents? Has he noted an apparent change in editorial attitudes towards this inquiry coinciding with evidence at the inquiry that the sales managers of 2 stations had consulted each other about a news item before it was withdrawn from news and current affairs programs on each of the 2 channels? Will the Minister ascertain whether commercial broadcasting and television stations have provided a reasonable coverage of news of this inquiry? Finally, does the Minister believe that public interest is best served if stations are allowed to regulate themselves?


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I have noticed that reports of the proceedings being conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in public hearing are not as full as they were initially. I have also noticed that one newspaper, namely the 'Australian Financial Review', now appears to consider the inquiry as being no longer an important news item. This seems to me to be rather strange because when the inquiry started this particular newspaper, which is part of the Fairfax chain, ran extensive reports of the proceedings. I do not know whether the commercial broadcasting and television stations are running any news stories relating to the inquiry of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but I certainly will check for the honourable senator and provide him with the information. As to the last portion of the honourable senator's question, I note that I have been accused by some commercial station personnel of trying to set up dictatorial controls over broadcasting and television stations. One or two stations in particular have made extensive attacks. I have deliberately refrained from replying because at this stage I am still in the course of holding discussions on certain of these matters with the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations and also, as a result of a conversation which was had with me this morning, with the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters.

Pending those discussions and the debate in this Parliament I do not intend to reply to these attacks. In the meantime, however, let me say that I think the proposition that stations should be left to regulate themselves is merely an open invitation to what one might refer to as commercial mayhem which no government could seriously contemplate. This certainly was not contemplated by the previous Government and it is not contemplated by this Government. As far as I know it is not contemplated anywhere else in the world. It does not happen in the United Kingdom, the United States of America or Canada. I say frankly that it will not happen here. The air waves are public property. Those who use them use them as a privilege and not necessarily as a right. I believe that they have to account to the public for their use of the air waves.







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