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Address by Ian Sinclair



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ADDRESS BY THE RT HON. IAN SINCLAIR, MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS, AT THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF GOLDEN WEST NETWORK STUDIOS, BUNBURY, ON FRIDAY, 9 OCTOBER, AT 5.00PM ........

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This new complex that I am here to open tonight is evidence once

more of the willingness of you here in the west to back your "* judgement with bricks and mortar and a whole new range of modern

equipment that technology now offers you.

Clearly the Board and Management of Golden West are putting their acumen and business foresight on the line with their decision to

develop this extension of their enterprise.

It is, however, what we have come to expect in so many ways in the

entrepreneurial style of the sons of the west. . .

That style has certainly become in many ways a reversal of Horace Greely's old adage in that all: the young men who'are coming east these days are certainly stirring up the financial markets . ·

and having considerable effect in the areas of communications and they tell me also in that aerial ping-pong code they also

favour here and the Victorian capital.

Indeed.your western.style entrepreneurs are not only shaking up the

share markets in the east but also occasionally in London and New York.

I am not quite sure just what the name of the school of experience is that breeds this particular style.

Even those who are identified more readily as products of a -

particular school, Perth Modern, haver,^ and are obviously continuing to register their presence in the political and Federal bureaucratic scene.

But then Bunbury also produces its "simple lawyers" who play their

important role in the great theatre of politics, with reputations

as toe-cutters and numbers men learning to wear steel cap boots.

Accordingly, I am delighted today to be in the Federal Electorate

of a fellow New South Welshman who tells me he saw the light and

"went west" as a young man. -

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This development here is strongly in keeping with the advances being

made on all levels and in so many industries by private enterprise in

the west.

I am told that the developments incorporated in construction and

equipping of this new complex will cost you at least $1 million.

I know that this includes a new computer for accounting, for program . scheduling and stock control as well as new TV and radio studios,

news rooms and executive offices and general refurbishing.

One of the important factors in the whole development of regional TV

and radio has been the opportunities afforded to young people to enter

into the fascinating areas of employment that are opening up in the

new age of technology. ' . ·

When you began here in 1967 you employed I understand a staff of 17. ·

This has now grown to over 65 employees so your investment is not only

in buildings and equipment but in bringing new skills and new interests to many local people and also in creating positions which invite new

citizens and their families into your community. .

Important in developing all the opportunites this Bunbury station

represents, has been the policies of localism pursued by the Federal

Government.

Successive Governments have enunciated this policy of support for localism virtually since the establishment of television.

It was in 1956 that the Postmaster-General ,of the day, Charles

Davidson, outlined the reasons for the development of this policy.

He said: "Television stations are in a position to exercise a constant

and cumulative effect on public taste and standards of conduct and

because of the influence they can bring to bear on the community the

business interests of the licensees must at all times be subordinated to an overriding principle." .

He then went on to spell out that the overriding principle is that the

possession of a licence is for the provision of a public’service and it

must be operated for the benefit of all members of the community.

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It was the need to ensure that the public came first which led the

Government to establish commercial television on the basis of localism.

It was the ABC's role to provide the national service while commercial

television stations were to serve specific and restricted areas in

Australia.

This was to serve the public interest in two ways.’ On the one hand,

the development of any broadcasting monopoly would be prevented. It was clear that the metropolitan stations would have a big'advantage ove

stations in the country because they served larger markets.

The danger that these metropolitan stations would come to dominate

regional or local commercial television stations was to be avoided.

Equally important in the less popular states, such as Western Australia

was the desire to develop television stations which maintain an identity with the community of interest within those states. ·

Technically speaking, a monopoly.structure for commercial television .

might have been cheaper. The metropolitan stations might have set

up translators, or used existing stations as virtual translators. But

they would have been granted the power to influence the people of Australia which neither theiGovernment nor the community could have

accepted.

The second reason for the Government to promote localism was its firm .

belief that there were distinct regions in the country which could be

served by a television service designed to meet the specific needs of

the individual regions. , ·

. ’ , ·

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At the time the Government made further important decisions on the

future of TV when in announcing the policy of the extension of

commercial television to regional areas he said that: "It has been

decided that, as far as practicable, priority in the grant.of such

licences would be given to applicants which are local independent

applicants not.associated with the metropolitan stations provided such

applicants demonstrate their capacity to provide, in the circumstances

prevailing in the area, a service comparable to that available'in · metropolitan . areas." : . _

.../

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The key point, of course, was that the programs would not be the same

as those seen by the majority who live in the metropolitan suburbs.

.Society needs diversity as much as it needs coherence. It was thought

important then, and it still is now, that television services meet the

needs and reflect the views of the audiences served. Because --·

audiences differ the programming must differ.

This is the broad picture, the history of localism. If we look more

closely at the concept, four distinct elements appear: locals ownership local program production, local program origination and local

,advertising. · .

The importance of local ownership is clear. Commercial television

stations are not licences to print money. A recent decision of the

Administrative Appeals Tribunal upheld the Australian Broadcasting

Tribunal's viewsΪ in one instance, of the importance of local ownershii

and control of commercial television stations. If you live and work

in an area you know the people there better than someone with no .

connection with it at all. "

An important function of commercial television in country regions is

the production of.local programs. We are all aware how much televisioi programs cost their makers. But without programs made by the local

stations designed specifically for the local people the concept of localism is severely damaged.

Local news, current affairs, and sport are three obvious examples of

local programs which regional operators must foster if their commitmenl to localism is to be maintained.

It also follows that a part of localism -is the ability of regional

operators to choose that range of programming which particularly meets

the needs of the local audience. Local origination, of course, covers)

most of the programming of regional operators.

Finally, regional television allows local business to advertise

effectively within its marketing area. A fully centralised system

of program distribution would not encourage smaller, local business

advertising.

This is what localism has meant to Australian television-during the -

last twenty five years: the preservation of the public interest and

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the defence of diversity. It is a system to which successive

Governments have given their full support. .

Indeed, the public interest provisions of the recent Amendment Bill

now recognise the importance of localism in television and broadcastinc

Section 83(5) of the amended Broadcasting and Television Act now

requires applicants for licences to make undertakings in writing to

the Tribunal. Prospective licensees must henceforth promise, under

section 83(5) (b) (i) and .(ii) to:

" (i) provide an adequate and comprehensive service in pursuance of the licence, having regard to - —

(a) the nature of the community to be served

in pursuance of the licence; .

(b) the diversity of the interests of that community; • . and . · '

. - (c) the nature of the other broadcasting and television

services (if any) of which satisfactory reception ·

■ · is being obtained by that community; and

. - (ii)s encourage the provision of programs wholly or

: substantially produced in Australia and use, and

encourage the use of, Australian creative resources in and in connection with the provision of programs." - -

Thethirty-five stations providing regional TV around Australia have certainly developed their services along these lines.

It is with this in mind that we need to look around the corner to

tomorrow. Australian domestic satellite AUSSAT's availability in

1985 willopen up enormous opportunities 'for the wide and speedy

despatch of signals around this continent.

Cable and Subscription Television,, now under public review by the

Australian Broadcasting Tribunal could also provide for TV viewers

greater viewing choice wherever and whenever such services might be

established. i '

Without doubt viewer demand for greater programming alternatives will

certainly increase pressures not only in this development but also

for more licences, including the extension of licensing In the UHF ban<

an estended pattern of translators and of course supplementary licence:

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When related to the increasing availability of television recorders

the pressure on this level of advertising revenue needed to sustain

localism becomes an important policy issue.

Another possible innovation Viewdata, will also significantly extend

the meaningfulness of the television screen for domestic and commercial

use, with its provision of a readily accessible and virtually limitless

range of information.

Certainly the financial position of Golden West and indeed a large

number of the regional TV stations has been, one would say, quite healthy in recent times. . . . . —

Of course the Government can give no guarantee on a level, of

profitability relating to a transmission licence. Yet the Government

is responsible to ensure that by any arbitrary act it destroys a

reasonable level of' profit of a licensee operating in accord with the

terms and conditions of his licence. . .

These issues are going to assume greater significance with the size

and level of capital investment needed to keep pace with technological

change.

Golden West and many other television stations have reinvested from

profits, not just to meet their own current aspirations but to

provide services for community needs on through the years.

I recognise the consequences of this investment here at Golden West and their relationship within the . ’.importance of careful consideration

of policies which I have listed. .

In Western Australia, as. much as anywhere in'Australia, I hope that

the community will enter into the debate of all these issues and take

a full part in the inquiries and hearings that will be held in the coming years. . . . .. . . ·

It is with much pleasure that I now open these new extensions and

commend the management and technicians who have planned these changes

and who will now be putting them to work for the beneft of viewers

and shareholders alike. . .

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