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Public television test permit



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4U AUSTRALIA.-zt- M inister for Transport and Communications Senator Gareth Evans CLC.

10 March 1988

22/88

PUBLIC TELEVISION TEST PERMIT

The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal today decided to grant a test permit to the public television aspirant group, Unlimited Television Incorporated, to allow limited test transmissions in Melbourne.

The decision is subject to the the provision of relevant technical specifications, which I expect to release in the near future. It follows consultation by the Tribunal with the Government, in which I have indicated that, although the

Government has made no decision on the introduction of public television, I would be happy to see interested groups have an

opportunity to show their wares and test public reaction.

Under the Broadcasting Act 1942, test transmissions are limited to seven day periods and shall not include advertising. They

are also subject to conditions imposed by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal (ABT), including a requirement to meet I

normal program standards.

Since the mid 1970s, there have been many proposals for the establishment of public television services in Australia. The proposals have sought a means by which community based groups, independent film makers and education bodies may have access to

television in much the same way as now exists in public radio.

There have been a number of difficulties associated with these

proposals. These include:

. a lack of clarity and consistency of approach by

proponents: many different views on how to proceed have been advanced;

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. scarcity of available frequencies: the Government has had to consider whether the dedicated use of a UHF frequency

(in scarce supply in capital cities) specifically for public television is possible and appropriate;

. funding: proposals have tended to be based on unrealistic assumptions of either Government funding or access to advertising.

Preliminary discussions on these issues have taken place between my Department, the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia, and various public television groups. Further discussions will be necessary.

It must be appreciated that an evaluation of public television may take some time, over a number of such tests. The

Government will need to have a very clear picture of the type of service public television groups propose and whether it is sustainable, before it can seriously consider whether public television should proceed in some permanent form, and by what means. .

However, while I am willing to let test transmissions proceed, it must be clearly understood that there is no commitment at this stage by the Government to the introduction of public television in the longer term, and that any proposals for long term development should not be structured on the need, in order for the service to be viable, for either:

. direct Commonwealth Government funding, or . advertising on a nature and scale comparable to the

commercial sector.

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