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Wednesday, 9 March 1932

Mr FENTON (MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA) - All I can say at this stage is that the Government has this subject under serious review, and it is being inquired into by the AttorneyGeneral's Department. I believe that we shall be able to introduce a system whereby we shall know the reason for all claims for copyright fees, and we shall know by whom they are made. Speaking off hand, if we were to insist on the registration of copyrights, and even charge a certain fee. it would be beneficial to the national exchequer, as well as helpful to the Performing Right Association and its clients.

There are now 12 A class stations in Australia; one is to be opened next week at Crystalbrook, South Australia. In order to have a proper national system, it is essential to build another eight stations, and when we have about twenty of them properly distributed throughout the Commonwealth, the people will be remarkably well served. There are pockets in Australia, as in all parts of the world, where broadcasting is difficult. For instance, it is not so easy to carry on broadcasting operations in Tasmania as in other parts of the Commonwealth.

Mr Guy - And Tasmania receives least consideration.

Mr FENTON - When the necessary funds are available, Tasmania will be supplied with broadcasting facilities. Even the British Broadcasting Corporation, with its remarkable financial resources, finds difficulty in supplying a completely satisfactory service. I recently read in the British press of serious complaints regarding the broadcasting service supplied to Wales. The Government desires to go on with* the work of erecting addi tional A class stations, and these will be placed principally in country areas, so that the people in out-back districts may be catered for.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Western Australia has not yet an up-to-date national station.

Mr FENTON - The difficulties in Western Australia are not similar, I think, to those experienced in Tasmania.

Mr A GREEN (KALGOORLIE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - When will the Western Australian station be erected?

Mr FENTON - So soon as the Government can obtain the requisite funds. I am quite prepared to admit that it is not fair for the Treasurer to apply to general revenue the fees received from listeners-in. The Postal Department ] as received a considerable amount of adverse criticism with respect to broadcasting, and this is clue, to some extent, to the fa<:t that, part of the fees of listeners havebeen permitted to flow into the genf:..revenue. The revenue received in Germany amounts to £4,000,000 per annum, and in that country the .postal officials are practically in sole control of broadcasting. A great deal of research is proceeding, and we have officers being trained under the auspices of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. Although the British Broadcasting Corporation has control over the programmes that are broadcast, it is dependent on :he British post office, in the main, for it.* valuable services. The broadcasting work of that post office is almost identical with that of the Australian post office.

Mr Gibson - Does the British Corporation pay anything to the Marconi Company for patent rights?

Mr FENTON - I do not know. I understand that quite a number of the charges made in Australia are not justified, and cannot be legally established.

I now propose to refer to Empire broadcasting, with which excellent progress is being made. At the last Imperial Conference a special committee was ap pointed to deal with this matter, and certain recommendations were made. A great station is being erected at Daventry, England, and it is being specially constructed for the purpose of transmitting programmes throughout the Empire. The sum voted for this work, £40.000, has been provided out of the publication fund, and the maintenance and upkeep of the station will involve an expenditure of £42,000 per annum. The difficulty in broadcasting programmes throughout the whole Empire is that in some parts it is night time, while in other parts it is day time. But wonderful improvements in broadcasting are anticipated in the near future. It is anticipated that under the Empire broadcasting system, it will bc possible for naked blacks to listen-in in the jungle to the world's best operas. We may also reach the period when brownskinned Indians will be able to dance to one of England's best orchestras, and when fur-clad Canadians in distant snowbound outposts may listen to a description of the running of the English Derby. In order to make available to the people of Australia at an appropriate hour programmes which are broadcast in England at night time, extensive use will be made of the Blattnerphone recording apparatus. With this equipment whole programmes may be "bottled" and put on the air at whatever hour is most suitable for any particular part of the Empire. This apparatus is capable of recording outstanding musical concerts, radio plays, talks, and in fact everything that is put on the air. I believe that by means of wireless we shall be able to bring the different parts of the British Empire into very close touch with each other. I shall not describe in detail what the British Broadcasting Corporation is able to do, but I am not exaggerating when I say that it has organized one of the best orchestras in the world. It will be a great thing for Australians if arrangements can be made for them to listen to relays of concerts by this orchestra. It should also help to deepen our Empire spirit considerably if we, through the wireless, can listen to the greatest British artists, speakers and lecturers, who participate in broadcast programmes.

Television also offers wonderful possibilities. I was an unbeliever in television, and I well remember the feeling I had when, some years ago, I was called upon to participate in the opening of station 3AR in Melbourne and had some notes put in my hand in which it was intimated that the day was not far distant when a farmer sitting in his own home 170 miles from Melbourne would be able to watch the running of the Melbourne Cup, and would know the winner of it as soon as some people on the course at Flemington. Television has undoubtedly bounded ahead. Until comparatively recently, experiments in television were made difficult owing to the lack of finance; but lately millions of pounds have been made available in order to develop this great agency for human instruction and entertainment. I understand that the Baird experts of Great Britain are now collaborating with the German experts with the object of putting into practical operation such principles of television as have been established. While I was in England I had the wonderful experience, at No. 10 Downing Street, of seeing a lady and hearing her speak, although she was twelve miles away from the room in which I was sitting. No doubt the Leader of the Opposition had a similar experience.

Mr Gibson - Is provision made in this bill for developing television?

Mr FENTON - The bill, of course, deals mainly with wireless broadcasting; but it is unlikely that the proposed broadcasting commission would overlook any great developments in television. We at present possess in Australia suitable equipment for broadcasting relays of British programmes throughout the Commonwealth.

The bill provides for the appointment of a commission of five members - a chairman, a vice-chairman, and three others. The salaries to be paid to these commissioners are on a modest scale. The chairman is to receive £500 per annum; the vicechairman, £400; and the other commissioners, £300 each. These are small salaries, but I believe that they will be sufficient to enable us to secure the services of thoroughly capable men.

Mr Maxwell - I presume they will be part time positions.

Mr FENTON - If we were to set out to obtain the whole time services of firstclass business men, we should have to pay large salaries. The Government feels that it should embark upon this new- era of broadcasting carefully. We' are not in a position to spend large sums of money on salaries. I know that in other parts of the world the directors of broadcasting receive large salaries; but we have already had an indication that it will not be difficult to secure the services of thoroughly capable persons for the remuneration which we are offering.

Mr Beasley - What duties are to be discharged by the proposed commission?

Mr FENTON - The functions are described in Part III. of the bill The commission will be expected to "undertake the provision and rendition of adequate and comprehensive programmes and it will be authorized to "do such acts and things as it deems incidental or conducive to the proper exploitation of those things which may be beneficial to broadcast programmes ". The care of the technical side of broadcasting will, as I have said, remain the responsibility of the PostmasterGeneral's Department. Clause 15 of the bill provides that the commission shall appoint a general manager and such other officers and servants as it thinks necessary; but it is also provided that the salaries of the general manager and the next six most highly-paid executive officers shall be subject to the approval of the Minister. We know very well that in some business enterprises it is the custom to appoint a managing director, while in others control is vested in a board of directors, which appoints a general manager. The broadcasting commission will be conducted on the latter lines.

Mr White - Will the commission have authority over the wireless operations of, say, our inland missions?

Mr FENTON - Those operations will remain, as hitherto, under the control of the Postmaster-General's Department. The amateur transmitting and receiving sets which are in use in Central Australia and elsewhere under existing conditions have been of very great benefit to the people outback. They have made life in remote places much more comfortable for women and children, and have rendered possible, to some extent at least, the provision of medical and other essential services. I am glad that' even out of our poverty we have been able to allot a grant in aid of these stations.

A number of complaints have been made in connexion with the wave lengths allotted to various stations. The air is a great space, but for broadcasting purposes even it cannot be left uncontrolled. It is essential that we shall maintain an authority to determine the wave lengths and other conditions which shall apply to different stations. I know that some stations have complained that they are subjected to interference from other stations.

Mr Beasley - Is the department prepared to rectify such complaints?

Mr FENTON - Yes, so far as practicable; but so much depends on the location of stations. When various bodies have applied to the department for permission to erect stations in different places, the department has granted the necessary permission; but it often happens that a station site is selected without proper regard for surrounding conditions. This leads to unnecessary interference. I know very well that at my own home, which is a little distance in from the coast, my wireless reception is often interrupted by the transmission of Morse signals from ships at sea.

Mr Beasley - Station 2SM, Sydney, was erected where the department desired it to be built; but the controllers of it have complained that they have been " jammed ".

Mr FENTON - I cannot give, the honorable member any definite information on. that point.

Mr Stewart - The controllers of 2SM did not erect a station; they broadcast through station 2FC.

Mr FENTON - All I can say is that the Government desires to do the very best possible in the interest of wireless development. I am sure that a commission appointed in the terms of this bill will enthusiastically undertake its work. I believe that seven stations are. operating in Sydney. Under prevailing conditions it is almost inevitable that interference will occur. I assure honorable members that the technical officers of the

Government are doing everything possible to conduct our wireless operations in the best possible way.

Mr Beasley - I should like more information about the qualifications required of the commissioners.

Mr FENTON - The Government will expect the commissioners to be men of good standing.

Mr Thompson - I take it that they will be specially qualified to do the work required of them.

Mr FENTON - I am not able at the moment to give the honorable member exact information as to the qualifications required of the governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation, when the control of wireless was transferred from private to government hands in Great Britain; but, speaking from memory, they were expected to be men with no axes to grind. It was recommended that they should be men of independent mind, good judgment, and outstanding ability. I may tell honorable members that it is expected by the Government that at least one lady will be appointed to the Australian commission.

Mr White - Will the commission be authorized to appoint sub-committees as the British Broadcasting Corporation can do?

Mr FENTON - Yes ; though these will be only advisory bodies.

Mr Guy - Is it proposed that the present allocation of the licence fees shall be maintained?

Mr FENTON - It is proposed that 12s. of the licence-fee shall be made available to the broadcasting commission. We hope, of course, that with the developments which will follow, some re-arrangement will be possible in the present allocation ; but the commission will certainly have 12s. of each licencefee, as under present conditions. Of the remaining 12s., 3s. will be set aside for patent rights, and 9s. will be taken by the Government. I hope that the measure will be kindly treated by honorable members, and receive a speedy passage.

Debate (on motion by Mr. A. Green) adjourned.

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