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Wednesday, 4 May 1994
Page: 261

(Question No. 1158)

Senator Ian Macdonald asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications and the Arts, upon notice, on 4 March 1994:

  With reference to paragraph (3) of the answer to question on notice no. 834 (Senate Hansard, 28 February 1994, page 1143) relating to the Parliamentary network, in which reference is made to the cost of providing facilities for a nationally networked Parliamentary Broadcast Service and it is suggested that the cost is approximately $26.5 million:

  (1) Has there been a recent investigation into whether or not the Parliamentary Broadcast Service should be extended to cover regional stations; if so, please provide details.

  (2) In a site where the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and/or the National Transmission Agency have aerials and other transmission facilities, what would be the approximate cost of establishing parliamentary broadcast transmission facilities at that site.

  (3) Have any surveys been done to indicate the audience of the Parliamentary Broadcast Service in places where it currently exists; if so, please provide details and compare that audience with the audience for ABC regional transmissions, ABC National Radio Network, ABC FM, SBS Radio and Triple J radio.

  (4) Are there current surveys of the viewing audience for parliamentary question time and for the parliamentary program `Order in the House'; if so, please provide details.

  (5) Are any such survey figures broken up into regional and metropolitan areas; if so, please provide details.

  (6) Once the capital works establishing transmission facilities are in place, what would be the annual cost of maintaining any single transmission site.

  (7) Is there any annual report for the Parliamentary Broadcast Service; if so, please provide a copy.

  (8) Does the Parliamentary Broadcast Service's budget figure in the annual report of other agencies; if so, please provide a copy.

Senator McMullan —The Minister for Communications and the Arts has provided the following answer, based on information provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Transmission Agency, to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) No.

  (2) The National Transmission Agency provides transmission facilities for ABC and SBS radio and television services and the current Parliamentary Broadcasting service. These facilities differ enormously in the coverage which they provide (from a few hundred to several million people), and in the complexity and cost of their construction.

  The cost of adding to existing facilities in order to provide a parliamentary broadcasting service at individual sites would also vary widely, depending upon such factors as the location of the facility, the size of the transmitter and its power requirements, and the need to modify the existing facility.

  Assuming that frequency modulation (FM) transmission facilities were employed, capital costs could vary between something less than $50,000 and $1 million. For a major regional site at which infrastructure exists with capacity to transmit an additional program service, the cost would be approximately $300,000.

  (3) Surveys have not been conducted by the ABC on the size of the audience for the Parliamentary Broadcast service and this information is not available from AGB:McNair ratings service.

  (4) A copy of extensive statistical returns on the average audience for the live and replay telecast of Parliamentary Question Time and Order in the House has been provided separately to the honourable senator.

  (5) A copy of the details of audience reach by demographics over a twelve week period for each of the five cities has been provided separately to the honourable senator. ABC Television does not currently purchase regional data.

  (6) As explained in the answer to part (2), transmission facilities differ enormously in cost and complexity. The additional cost of operating and maintaining additional transmission facilities, could range from $30,000 to $150,000 per annum per site.

  (7) Annual reporting for the Parliamentary Broadcast Network is incorporated in the Department of the Parliament Reporting Staff's (DPRS) Annual Report. A copy of the 1992-93 Annual Report for the DPRS has been provided separately to the honourable senator.

  (8) No.