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Big expansion and guaranteed independence for SBS television



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COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMEiN 1ARY LI3RARY MIC AH

60/89 26 July 1989

BIG EXPANSION AND GUARANTEED INDEPENDENCE FOR SBS TELEVISION

The Special Broadcasting Service will become an independent corporation and transmit to nine new regions as part of the National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia.

The Minister for Transport and Communications, Ralph Willis, said today that SBS television would be progressively extended from 1991 to the Latrobe Valley, Bendigo, Ballarat, the Darling Downs, the Spencer Gulf, Darwin, North-Eastern Tasmania, Cairns and Townsville.

He said that legislation to establish the SBS as an independent corporation with its own charter would be introduced during the Budget session of Federal Parliament, which begins next month.

"The Government is pleased to be able to proceed with this extension of services now that its commitment to maintaining SBS as a separate independent broadcaster is being confirmed in legislation," Mr Willis said.

"The legislation will guarantee the independence of the SBS in its programming and activities.

"The SBS legislation will be drawn up in consultation with community groups such as the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils.

"The charter will establish the unique character of the SBS and formally recognise the key role it plays in promoting multicultural Australia to its citizens."

Mr Willis said the legislation would define the roles of the SBS and the ABC in complementary terms, allowing each to maintain a maximum amount of programming flexibility.

He said the initiative to extend SBS television to Darwin and eight other population centres outside the major metropolitan areas was a move that recognised the Government's special responsibilities of providing for the needs of ethnic

communities.

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"Darwin was selected because it was the only capital city without SBS television, and because it was characterised by wide ethnic and cultural diversity," Mr Willis said.

"The other areas have been selected because they have a relatively high percentage of people born overseas in non-English speaking countries or who have at least one parent for whom English is not the first language, or because they include a major regional city with a service area of around 100,000 people.

"The Government would like to extend the SBS to more areas, but that is not possible at this time given the Government's overriding responsibility to limit expenditure as part of its disciplined and responsible Budget strategy.

"In accordance with the Government's previous commitment, work has already begun on extending SBS television to the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.

"The Government recognises that the ability of the SBS to fulfil its responsibilities as a high quality multicultural broadcaster depends on the number of people who are able to receive its programs.

"The Government also recognises that the current transmission range of SBS TV disadvantages regional viewing areas at a time when the Government is committed to the objective of providing diversity of choice of radio and television services to all

Australians, regardless of where they live."

Mr Willis said the SBS television expansion program would be coordinated with other engineering works, particularly the equalisation of country commercial TV services in eastern Australia which would bring extra broadcasting services to under­

served communities.

He said that in addition to the extension of SBS television, other broadcast-related Hawke Government initiatives directed towards a multi-cultural Australia included the grant of Special Interest (Ethnic) public radio licences in Perth and Melbourne,

and the Broadcasting Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRAGS) which is tailored to the special cultural needs of Aboriginal people in remote areas.

"I am also considering the introduction of commercial special interest radio licences which amongst other things could be devoted to ethnic broadcasting," Mr Willis added.

The proposed timetable for the extension of SBS television is:

1991 1992 1993 1994

Latrobe Valley Bendigo, Ballarat, Darling Downs Spencer Gulf, Darwin, North-East Tasmania Cairns, Townsville

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Further information:

Minister's office: Brian Hill (062) 77 7200 Department of Transport and Communications: David Combe (062) 74 7294

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