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Wednesday, 3 June 1942

Mr HOLT (Fawkner) (2:44 AM) .- I object to the principle underlying this clause. Sub-clause 2 provides that -

A person shall hold such number of broadcast listeners' licences as is equivalent to the number of appliances in his possession which are capable of being used for the reception of broadcast programmes.

It will be extremely difficult to administer the clause. Who will determine which appliances are capable of being used for the reception of broadcast programmes ? A person may have an old set with burnt-out valves stowed away in an attic. Would such a set be considered to be capable of receiving programmes? Is the clause intended to cover portable sets which persons may have in their possession for use when travelling?

Mr George Lawson - For what purpose would he carry it?

Mr HOLT - Admittedly, he would be able to listen to what was broadcast. This will place an excessive impost upon the wireless listening public. At present, the use of motor cars is very greatly restricted ; yet the full licence-fee is payable in respect of a receiver that is installed in a car. In many homes, it has been the practice of the employers to provide sets for the use of the domestic servants. The imposition on many households may thus be substantial. It may be argued that more sets possibly mean a wider spread of the entertainment provided over the air. For what purpose is the charge made? It is to provide a fund, a portion of which shall go to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Yet, over 90 per cent, of the time of the public that is spent in listening to broadcasts is devoted to the commercial stations. These do not seek remuneration direct from the listening public; all that they ask is that the listening public shall tune in to their broadcasts. At a time when taxation has reached a record level, this is an unwarranted imposition.

One of the great merits of wireless entertainment is that it helps to educate the listening public. The Government should do ail that it can to encourage the people to buy sets and to listen to broadcasts. It may be necessary to have a fund that will be available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. That purpose is achieved by the annual licencefee, which in itself is quite justifiable.

Mr George Lawson - Additional licences are at a reduced rental.

Mr HOLT - They could mean an extra £3, £4 or £5 to any household. There is no revenue requirement which justifies this proposal. It is merely a bright idea that has occurred to some one. It will need a good deal of policing if the department is to secure a return in accordance with the number of sets in use. I should prefer a scheme under which a licence-fee would be charged when a set was bought. The listener would not then be subject to as much inconvenience and nuisance as he is in having to pay an additional annual charge for a set which may or may not be working. A portable set may be worked by means of a battery, which may run down and be not replaced because of the impossibility of obtaining supplies in war-time; yet the licence-fee will have to be paid. To me, and I believe to a number of people, judging by the protests that have been received, the clause is objectionable, and should be resisted by the committee.

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