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Greek radio service must comply with law to avoid closure



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15 January 1991

GREEK RADIO SERVICE MUST COMPLY WITH LAW TO AVOID CLOSURE

A Greek radio service operating in Melbourne faces its licence being cancelled on 21 January if its owners do not comply with the law.

"I hope for the sake of its listeners that the station owners meet their obligations," Mr Warren Snowdon, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Transport and Communications, said today.

"It's a shame that listeners may be deprived of this service, but the responsibility lies with the owners, not the Government." .

The operator of the service, Margan Delta Pty Ltd, had originally sought a licence to transmit its programs only to non-domestic premises such as clubs, hotels and businesses.

But instead it had established its service as a de facto broadcasting station and in spite of repeated warnings continued to transmit the service without meeting an important licence condition.

This requirement, known by Margan Delta for many months, was that its transmissions were to be encrypted (or encoded) so that only people with authorised special receivers could pick up the service.

"The Margan Delta licence is for what is known as a Video and Audio Entertainment and Information Service, " Mr Snowdon said.

"The licence only allows Margan Delta to operate a service to authorised listeners, not a broadcasting station able to be heard by anyone who chooses to listen.

"To permit any business undertaking to flout the law in such a manner would lead to chaos in the Australian broadcasting industry. It would also be most unfair to legitimate broadcasters who have gone through the proper channels and agreed to meet program standards designed to protect Australian listeners."

The Government could not accept illegal entry into broadcasting without putting the whole structure of the industry in grave jeopardy. 2/.

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Margan Delta was free to seek within the law to establish itself as a legitimate commercial broadcaster. But if it did, it would have to comply with the Broadcasting Act and work with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, the body which controls the issue of such licences in Australia.

"It is open to Margan Delta to put forward proposals to change the conditions of its licence, including whether the service might be provided to domestic premises," Mr Snowdon said.

"The Government is prepared to look at any reasonable proposals to provide these kinds of special services to the Greek community. But they cannot be provided as open broadcasting services unless licensed under the Broadcasting Act. "

Mr Snowdon said the Government had bent over backwards to find a way of solving this problem, but it was still waiting for Margan Delta to make any reasonable proposal to enable the firm to operate within the law.

The Government had even gone to the extent before Christmas of revoking a statutory order required under the Radiocommunications Act so that listeners could continue to have the service over the holiday break.

Margan Delta now had until 21 January to show cause why its radiocommunications licence should not be withdrawn because of repeated violations of the Radiocommunications Act. If it could not do this, then the Government had no alternative but to close down the operation.

"The fact of the matter is that an unauthorised radio station is operating in Melbourne and unless certain actions are taken, it will be shut down," Mr Snowdon said.

Media contact: Bill Pritchard (06) 277 4877.