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Address by Ian Sinclair



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ADDRESS BY THE RT. HON. IAN SINCLAIR, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, TO THE ADVERTISING CLUB, HYATT KINGSGATE HOTEL, SYDNEY, WEDNESDAY, 24 JUNE, 1981, 1.30 P.M. . ■

You as advertisers and agencies do most of. your selling directly

after measured consideration of expected audience response.

You use a variety of media - print, electronic or audio-visual -

. and then with all the · „ trimmings. The quality of your product is

often almost concealed by the magnificence of your presentations.

Politics, on the other hand, tends to be simplistic, more direct,

eyeball to eyeball and exposed to all comers.

So it is with me to you today. As a simple wordsmith, confronting

you, the masters of every electronic and artistic device, to

expose some views on your industry and my calling.

Face to face you make your assessment, warts and all. Mostly as

customers we know only of the wares you advertise through your

representation of them. Your success lies in minimising the

warts and maximising their desirability, subject of course to

your ethical constraints. Well-contrived, carefully, controlled

ads with maximum sensory impact, placed selectively throughout

the media, are the essence of the public exposure of your

profession. .

Not that I suggest you too do not expose political issues and

politicians. However, the normal public scrutiny of the political

scene is supplemented by news commentary and analysis where the

warts are magnified and the blemishes distorted and the positive

elements often concealed. Your displays and dramatic use of space

and time in papers, radio and TV seeks rather to achieve the

opposite result for those causes you represent.

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Over the past few weeks before similar audiences I have ruminated

on leaks, assessed the impact of documents falling off trucks,

and commented on the ethics of their publication.

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Each time I've done this I am reminded that no matter what is

said by others outside the media, there is one absolute truth,

and that is: "The press has the last word."

That is my last word on that subject.

Of course, for us both, for you in your calling and me in mine,

the media is the message.

Of all the fascinating folklore that surrounds and envelops

politics, there is much absorbing and enthralling in the

relationship between the press and politicians. .

. Press and politics is a two-way deal, obviously. Or is it?

However,, if all the rumoured deals between media and politicians

over the years had been consummated - the paths of politics,

the press and Government would have been a concrete super highway

instead of the substandard corrugated rocky outback track that

it really is.

Certainly, it would not be the bad case of clear air turbulance,

to use the more appropriate medium for your message, that it so

often seems to be.

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A book recently published on the subject in Britain: "The Rise

and Fall of the Political Press in Britain", by Professor Stephen

Ross, coins the word the "confluence" between press and politics.

Since advertising plays a role in that "Fall", let us assess that

rise and fall.

There is a certain chicken and egg element:to it. Indeed, the

development of the media - the press that is - in its earlier

days was very much the result of the need for politicians to have

their views circulated.

In the 1790's both Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton,

members of George Washington's Cabinet, owned their own newspapers

which they used to push their views.

This concept in more recent times has been espoused by a number

of my Labor colleagues who thought a public newspaper would

protect them from what they saw as the assessors' excess of

journalistic-fervour in the private sector. .

You«might recall that Pickering cartoon of Bill Hayden complaining

to the editor of the paper in which a cartoon appeared. Bill says

"I am here, to complain about election bias." The man behind the

desk says: '"72 or '80?" Bill stalks away saying: "Some people

can't tell bias from perceptive journalism."

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In the last decade of the 18th century the American Government

was operating out of Philadelphia, still then a very small town

by any standards, yet it boasted more than a dozen newspapers all

devoted to presentation of different political points of view.

In Britain similar semi-pamphlet papers gave way in the middle of

the 19th century to moves which encouraged the getting together

of the independent pamphleteers and the politicians in the first

series of the wider circulating newspapers.

Obvious factors developed the demand and the audience. The

widening of the franchise through the Reform Acts, increased

primary education creating working class literacy, new printing

technology speeded the production of newspapers and the burgeoning

railway system expedited nationwide distribution.

In this climate no doubt as a result of the efforts of your

predecessors, politicians were quick to remove the notorious

taxes on knowledge, the stamp duties on the press, a tax which

in spite of Budget stringencies has not again come into vogue.

Thus began Britain’s world pioneering role of mass circulation

national dailies.

Then, as now, it was difficult if not impossible to gauge the

influence of the press on the electorate. Certainly the press

could never be happily ignored.

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Private notes and papers revealed in "The Rise and Fall"

indicate that even the greats, such as Gladstone and Lord

Salisbury, who both asserted high moral principles about being

above the influence of outsiders, had long and involved and

recurring dealings with the proprietors of the press, with editors

and journalists, to curry favour throughout their careers.

Perhaps at least in his involvement with the press the New South

Wales Premier is not unique after all.

Around.that time the papers were carrying column after column

after column of political news; politicians' speeches in the

Commons were run in full; editorials, ran on forever, weighing

up obscure middle European problems.

This trend was to change, and, as much as anything, advertising

was. the catalyst. .

It was the growth in consumer spending, the widening of education

and extending of leisure time that made a reading public look

for something else in a daily journal - something more

stimulating than great slabs of politic's.

Sports, muder, mayhem and scandal became first the tools of the

less scrupulous proprietors, but.the commercial success of the

scandal sheets soon drew in the owners of the larger dailies.

They moved towards the production of papers that were aimed more

at commercial success than purely at influencing the politicians

for a greater say in the events of the day.

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Britain’s booming manufacturing industries were beginning to

compete for the consumer shilling.

Along came advertising to help them create new markets, and the

rest, as they say, is history.

The moral is, of course, that politics will always lose out to

sports, murder, mayhem and scandal - but add a touch of politics

to any of these subjects'and you have a sure-fire commercial

success, proving that a bright commercial mind conquers all.

Perhaps it does suggest that even with the extraordinary exposure

of modern election campaigns, further ingredients would be added

to the brew to make a truly dramatic production if some

advertising agents were allowed to hold complete sway.

However, the question arises as to just what makes the commercial

mind function in approaching the marketplace, and how, and when,

that mind chooses to use advertising to achieve success in the

marketplace.

The past decade has been a time of substantial fluctuation in

virtually all the indices we use to measure the changes in our

economic life.

One thing that is not measurable except by an averaging of

individual concepts is that term "business confidence".

I think most of you here today would agree that business confidence

has been higher in the second half of the past decade than in the first half.

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There is a measure which I believe now exists in a simple way to

identify this. By comparing the total Australian advertising

expenditure figure for those two halves of the current decade - on

a price deflated basis - (to produce a proper figure) with either

the final Private Consumption Expenditure figures, or the Gross

Domestic Product figures, from the National Accounts, an

interesting conclusion was reached. .

In that first half of the decade advertising expenditure, rose by

only one-third of the growth registered in either the consumption

or the GDP figures.

In the second half of that decade advertising expenditure has

risen at something like three times those same figures.

I am not about to christen this the Sinclair confidence index, and

I am certainly referring my calculations, to the Treasurer for an

adequate check, but there are indications that your industry

thrives in a confident atmosphere.

Indeed, the marketing image identifies an industry exuding,

confidence through all its creative talents.

Not that the market is shared equally - for you all know of the

intense competitiveness. However, the "million dollar salesman"

has that special something which finds the needs and wats of

Mr. and Mrs. Everybody and collects a better than average share

of both their consumer and never-never.dollar because of his

skill in an overall marketing embrace.

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It is this consumer dollar that we all keep in mind. The

Government's view, stated often enough, is to allow the consumer

to'have as much of his hard-earned dollar as possible to spend

on his choice of goods or services.

There are however areas in my portfolio which open new doors for

that master salesman and which may compound the arithmetic of

that index we mentioned a while ago. .

Certainly they have the potential to make new calls on the

consumer dollar, diverting it from areas where it is now spent.

Not that the new technology is a Government prerogative, but its

availability certainly is contained within the frames of

Government licence.

Certainly there is the opportunity to vary the distribution of

the slice of the advertising dollar cake which generate new

recipes for that sweet icing.

Let us look at the two dimensions of that cake, the first the

consumer dollar, the second the advertising dollar.

Certainly the diversion of the consumer dollar will be most

significant with new technology. .

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Innovations such as- cable television, subscription television

and view data systems must impact on present media outlets

and customer willingness to continue to use present media outlets.

Both will certainly generate significant side effects within

the whole advertising industry. .

In the marketplace they will attract.business from the supermarket

and the auction floor. They remove the tyranny of distance and

have effect on local communities and regions as their services

are transmitted by satellite across limitless distance.

These considerations of course in the rundown to the passage of

the recent amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act

contributed to the referral of subscription television as a

supplementary reference to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.

I am sure we all await the outcome of the Tribunal report on

cable and subscription television in March 1982 with interest.

On the second option, the reappointment of the advertising .

dollar, questions have arisen on future funding of the ABC

and the Special Broadcasting Service. At present predominantly

financed on Budget, the alternative now needs critical scrutiny.

The ABC, in its submission to the Dix Committee of Review, proposed

that corporate underwriting be permitted for some of its activities.

These included the engagement of a leading overseas conductor for

performances with ABC orchestras, and the development of a particula

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type of programming that the Commission alone could not afford, as

examples. It also set out desirable principles to guide such

arrangements: .

- there should be no promotion of particular products or

services .

- there should be no close connection, real or perceived,

between the interests of a company and the subject of an activity or program

- there should be no involvement by the company in the actual

. production of programs or activities - for example, in

review of scripts, choice of topics for discussion or

. selection of participants in a program.

The Commission foresaw future difficulties in providing certain

types of program, such as sports and some drama, caused by steeply

rising costs. It therefore concluded: "The idea of associating

the ABC with large companies prepared to.underwrite projects or

programs under carefully agreed guidelines is a positive means of benefit to the community".

The Report of the Committee of Review has virtually endorsed the ABC position on this matter. It rejects the acceptance of paid .

advertising for ABC transmissions for the following reasons: :

. the public dislikes advertising as such (finding of ANOP * poll commissioned for the Review) ,

. the public perceives advertising as a threat to ABC integrity . Committee sees a commercial ABC as largely indistinguishable

from other commercial broadcasters, and thus likely to lose

; its rationale for existing.

It has called for legislative changes to allow the ABC to accept

resources from outside organisations which can offer underwriting

co-production or co-financing resources for particular television

(not radio) programs. There should be strict guidelines to safeguar<

editorial independence and program judgements, and to confine

underwriting activity to programs other than news, information and

current affairs.

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These as I have said are the views of the Commission on the one

hand and the Committee of Review on the other. '

I should say obviously to avoid offending too many, particularly

on the point of the public disliking advertising, that at this

stage I neither endorse nor reject any of the submission or the

recommendations in whole or in part.

The whole interaction of sponsorship' and advertising with

broadcasting in all its forms, through public systems or the \ .

SB S a n d ; A B C o r c o m m e r c i a l , a r e m a t t e r s t h a t d o n e e d to be c o n s i d e r e d v e r y c a r e f u l l y .

They, n e e d t o . b e r e l a t e d to t h e f a c t t h a t c o m m e r c i a l t e l e v i s i o n

is g e n e r a t i n g a r o u n d $555" m i l l i o n in a d v e r t i s i n g r e v e n u e t h i s

y e a r w h i l e t h e F e d e r a t i o n o f A u s t r a l i a n R a d i o B r o a d c a s t e r s

e s t i m a t e a d v e r t i s i n g r e v e n u e o f $ 1 2 6 m i l l i o n in t h e c u r r e n t .year.

G i v e n t h e r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s o f t h e A B C i n its r e q u i r e d p r o v i s i o n

of s e r v i c e s t h r o u g h o u t t h e n a t i o n a n d t h e S B S w i t h its s p e c i a l

s e c t o r r e s p o n s i b i l i t i e s , a n d t h a t e a c h c o m p e t e s in t h e m a r k e t p l a c e

w i t h t h o s e s t a t i o n s e a r n i n g t h i s e n o r m o u s a m o u n t in r e v e n u e to

e x p e n d o n p r o g r a m m i n g , it is h a r d to s e e a n y G o v e r n m e n t f r o m

g e n e r a l r e v e n u e f u n d s p r o v i d i n g s u f f i c i e n t m o n e y to f u l l y c o m p e t e

a g a i n s t t h o s e m a j o r c o m m e r c i a l s t a t i o n s . T h i s s e e m s t h e r e f o r e one

o f t h e f u n d a m e n t a l q u e s t i o n s t h a t w i l l n e e d c o n s i d e r a b l e p u b l i c s c r u t i n y in t h e p u b l i c d e b a t e n o w e m e r g i n g o n t h e D i x C o m m i t t e e .

A s y o u r a s s o c i a t i o n h a s a p a r t i c u l a r i n t e r e s t in t h e s e q u e s t i o n s I t r u s t y o u t o o w i l l p a r t i c i p a t e a n d l e t G o v e r n m e n t k n o w yo.ur

v i e w s o n t h e d i s t r i b u t i o n o f t h e a d v e r t i s i n g d o l l a r to t h e A B C

a n d m u l t i c u l t u r a l t e l e v i s i o n a n d r a d i o . .

In d o i n g so y o u s h o u l d n o t i g n o r e t h e o t h e r m e d i a f o r m - P u b l i c B r o a d c a s t i n g a n d T V , a s e c t o r o n l y r e c e n t l y e s t a b l i s h e d h e r e

b u t g r o w i n g v i g o r o u s l y in N o r t h A m e r i c a .

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Another area of your members' interest no doubt is in the

Domestic Satellite. Commercial interests' . involvement is

assured although the terms still remain to be settled within the 511/49% breakup.

While no doubt there are here today present many who are anxious

to glean some idea of the Government's attitude to the makeup of

the private sector ownership, advertisers and the agency businesses will also be concerned with the ability of commercial TV stations to use a .transponder on the satellite for the station to station

transmission of programmes or programme packages.

Present planning is that.we are looking to have an operational

satellite system by mid 1985 and I know some who are impatient,

with this as a completion date. ,

While satellite communications systems have been operating for

some years in other countries, it would be incorrect to believe

that the estalbishment of a similar system in Australia will be a relatively simple project. .

In fact the project.involves an application of very high

technologies in space engineering systems and design.

The timetable to have an operational system by any planned

date requires that detailed planning must be completed at

various designated stages so that milestone decisions can be made with the ultimate objective of satellites and the earth

system being available to meet reservations made with various agencies to place the satellites in their orbital positions.

The timetable menas also that before the satellite system is

operational the Government in conjunction with the proposed

satellite corporation will be required to decide on the extent

to which the satellite system in its second and third generations

will be used for commercial broadcasting purposes.

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The extent to which the satellite should be used to supplement

telecommunications services in competition with Telecom must

also be settled within that timespan.

The rush of technology, the thrust of new ideas, new equipment,

the opening of new doors to commercial possibilities, all have absolutely no twenty first century answers to be suddenly applied

to the last twenty years of this century.

There are a lot of hard decisions to be made, both by the private

and public sectors in their involvement in this communications

revolution, that is, decisions involving all of us here in this room today and many others around Australia.

The significance of the decisions is such that they must be made

with the widest possible consultation, careful consideration, practical analysis and rational conclusion.

The latter must be done by question and discussion so that the

barriers remain hurdles and not unsurmountable fences.

Above all, no-one need be overwhelmed by the magic catchplace of the technological revolution.

Quick and easy phrases are often written into the folklore to

obscure realities.

I certainly don't want the communications revolution to be seen

as such in Australia.

As Wendell Wilkie, that almost US President, said: "A good

catchword can obscure analysis for fifty years," I am sure

no-one in the advertising industry can afford such an epitaph.