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Address by Ian Sinclair



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ADDRESS BY THE RT. HON. IAN SINCLAIR, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, TO THE PUBLIC BROADCASTING ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ETHNIC BROADCASTING, MELBOURNE, AT 8.00 P.M., ON FRIDAY, 21 AUGUST, 1981 - DELIVERED ON HIS BEHALF BY MR. GRAHAM HARRIS, M.P., MEMBER FOR CHISHOLM.........

Mr. Sinclair has asked me to convey to you his sincere apologies

for not being present, and has asked me to place on record with

you what the Government hopes will be achieved by its fostering

of the development of ethnic broadcasting.

The Government would like to see this comparatively new addition

to the Australian airwaves fit into the context of broadcasting

services from which.the entire Australian community benefits and enjoys. ·

Certainly, it could be said that what is happening in ethnic

broadcasting in Australia today is unmatched anywhere.

No other broadcasting service in the world is accepting a similar

challenge to ours of fulfilling the needs of a listening, and a viewing, audience with such diverse requirements as those evident

in the Australia of the 1980s.

This is not indulging in backslapping for the Government. Many

individuals and organisations, as well as the Government, are

involved in this, bold and ambitious undertaking and all deserve credit for what has been achieved.

The fundamental role of ethnic radio, or multicultural radio as

some call it, lies in catering for the needs of residents of this country whose first language is not English.

This deserves to be stated again because really it is basic to

our understanding of what ethnic broadcasting is all about.

In carrying out this task, ethnic broadcasting must adopt at least

a two-pronged approach.

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First, ethnic radio is extremely important in helping newcomers

to this continent to retain the languages and cultural traditions

of their distant homelands, and to pass this knowledge on to

their children. .

That is one of the principal objectives the Government hopes for

in ethnic radio.

The second, and in many ways equally important, is the ability of

ethnic radio.to explain the ethos of Australia in this 20th century.

By this is meant the ability for ethnic radio to meet the inform­

ation needs of the newcomers to our community about our community.

The dissemination of essential information - ranging from how to obtain family benefits and where to go to attend English classes,

to an understanding of our history and geography.

This must assist in alleviating the inevitable isolation - the

"culture shock" - that people experience when they first arrive in Australia.

More importantly it is designed to help them become Australians.

By using the expression "culture shock", it is not being facetious at the quality of difference of Australian life.

Rather, "culture shock" is seen as being what happens when settlers

from countries culturally and ethnically different and geographically remote arrive in Australia.

Immediately they are faced with the complexities of a different

language, different social values, and a different cultural

tradition from those with which they grew up in their homelands.

This applies even to those who can speak or understand the English language. .

Without a common language the shock is even more intense. .

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The language barrier is fundamental. Apart from being a natural

obstacle, it magnifies other differences such as coming to grips

with the prevailing customs and attitudes of Australians.

Ethnic radio, by; providing information about how Australia's

social, cultural and economic institutions operate, helps new

settlers become part of the wider Australian community.

The Government does not believe the preservation of permanent

different racial enclaves in Australia desirable; although on arrival in this country new settlers, especially those without

English, tend to cling to each other.

It is also natural that that the aged and the womenfolk who do

not have.the same opportunity to mingle in the community at large at times feel isolated from other Australians.

For this reason the two-pronged approach of ethnic radio is

crucial in the development of a sound, healthy and truly multi­ cultural society in Australia.

The Government believes that constant care must be taken to ensure that ethnic radio maintains a balance between the two

objectives mentioned, even though at times they will be contra­ dictory.

Without this balance, ethnic radio could be an isolating force

and unwittingly cause people to remain bound to the cultures

and languages of their former homelands at the expense of having a mutually beneficial interaction with the broader

Australian society.

In 1975 when the then Government first accepted responsibility

for the funding of ethnic broadcasting services it provided

funds.for the establishment of experimental stations 2EA in .

Sydney and 3EA in Melbourne r r. services which met with general approval.

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As a result, the present Government, which wanted to·extend

the concept, set up the Special Broadcasting Service in 1978

as an independent statutory authority to administer ethnic

broadcasting.

In common with most pioneering ventures, the SBS has run into problems from time to time.

One well-known difficulty has been the role of co-ordinators

and broadcasters of ethnic programmes. It is undeniable that

this has caused tension. '

As most of you will be aware, when the SBS assumed responsibility

for the operation of 2EA and 3EA it regularised the system of

paying broadcasters.

Before that, broadcasters were volunteers and received only out- > of-pocket expenses incurred in the production and presentation :

of programmes. .

These days, because the SBS is an institution funded from .

Government funds, it is accountable to the public via the Parliament for its operations and expenditures.

It must-operate in accordance with legislation, and established

government procedures.

This demand for accountability has meant that the SBS is required

to develop procedures which some may call.unduly bureaucratic, but regrettably are part of the process of ensuring responsibility in, the expenditure of taxpayers' money.

In funding a service of this nature and ensuring that proper

procedures are followed, the Government is not seeking to reduce

the extent of community access to ethnic broadcasting. Indeed, the opposite applies.

As you know, the Government, through the SBS, also provides

substantial funds as subsidies to public broadcasting stations

that provide some ethnic programming during broadcasting hours.

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In the new financial year the Government will provide, funds

to about 13 stations amounting to $400,000.

This is a substantial increase on the initial appropriation of

$75,000 provided by the Government in 1978/79 and further

evidence that the Government wants to encourage the community

access type of approach to ethnic broadcasting.

By engaging in this dual method of providing ethnic broadcasting

services, the Government has attempted to ensure that the

specific needs of migrants living beyond the broadcasting range of ethnic stations are being met. .

It recognises, however, that there are several issues associated with this approach that require examination. "

In the main, public broadcasting stations must continue to be self-managing and largely self-funding.

However, subsidies.:for ethnic programming on these stations are

wholly funded by the Australian taxpayer.

The Government, therefore, requires assurances that ethnic

programmes provided on public broadcasting stations are relevant

to the needs of specific community language groups and are

produced by people truly representative of ethnic groups.

MULTICULTURAL TELEVISION

Mention in this context should also be made of the multicultural

television service, operated and present in Melbourne and

Sydney by the SBS, to/meet broad community needs.

It should be re-stated here that, unlike the radio service,

programming is designed to provide entertainment, education and

information to the Australian community as a whole, as well as

to its component ethnic communities.

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The intention of these programmes, an objective endorsed in .

the Government, is to foster an understanding and appreciation

of all the diverse cultures within Australia.

The programming philosophy is intended to ensure that multi­

cultural television complements and supplements the ethnic radio service as well as the mainstream television services.

Those people who criticise the service because it does not meet the special needs of specific groups do not always under­

stand that its programmes are intended to appeal to the whole

community.

Some of you will be aware that the Board of the SBS has recently

been expanded from 4 to 7.

This action was taken to ensure that the SBS is capable of

meeting the demands of providing both a multicultural television

service and an ethnic radio service responsive to community needs..

The new Board under the Chairmanship of Sir Nicholas Shehadie, a noted businessman and former Lord Mayor of Sydney, was chosen

to provide a broad cross-section of skills and abilities.

In the Government's view, the Board represents an excellent

balance of members with ethnic backgrounds, broadcasting skills and business and administrative abilities.

All these qualities are essential for the effective functioning

of an organisation with such diverse responsibilities.

Another element in the restructuring involves the establishment

of an SBS National Advisory Council under the Chairmanship of

Mr. Frank Galbally.

This Council will be in the nature of a consumer-feedback

organisation meeting about four times a year.

It will advise the SBS Board primarily on matters relating to

multilingual/multicultural programme services. Particular emphasis will be placed on the needs of# identified communities.

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The Council will not, therefore, duplicate the functions of

the former Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting

Corporation Implementation Committee, the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council, or the N.S.W. and Victorian

State Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Committees.

Finally, it should be said that while the Galbally Report on

Migrant Services and Programmes recommended the extension of

the ethnic radio service beyond Sydney and Melbourne to all

capital cities and provincial cities with large numbers of

migrants, the problems associated with extending the EA-type service are complex.

For this reason the Government intends to examine the whole

question of the long-term future of ethnic radio including

any future utilisation of the services of the public broad­ casting stations.

Out of this, a discussion paper will be prepared which will identify a range, of short and long-term planning options for

the further development of ethnic radio.

Public response will be sought and a final position paper prepared for the Government's consideration.

You are who participants in ethnic public broadcasting should

be extremely proud of the achievements you have made. ·

You have brought a new dimension to communication in our multi­

cultural Australian environment, bringing from your own home­

lands the diversity of your native language and own culture.

You enjoy an access not just to your own people, but to all who

s.eek to listen or, ::in the instance of 0/28, to watch.

The Government appreciates the service you render and assures

you of its continuing interest in the viability, of the important

sector of broadcasting and television which you represent.