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Thursday, 9 December 1971
Page: 4581

Mr Barnard asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:

What steps have been taken by the Government to implement the recommendations of the Weeden Committee on Educational Television whose report was completed in 1964.

Sir Alan Hulme - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

The basic policy of the Government in relation to educational television, following its consideration of the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board's Advisory Committee on Educational Television Services (the Weeden Committee), was outlined in a statement which I made in Parliament on 11th May, 1966.

Whilst the Government supported the Committee's views that instructional television programmes ought to be developed as an integral part of the Australian education system, and agreed that education was primarily a matter for State Authorities the Government did not accept the proposal of the advisory Committee that' a separate network of educational television stations was necessary. It considered that the facilities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and those of commercial stations, if required, were adequate for the forseeable future to provide satisfactory educational television services. lt was considered by the Government, that, as education was a sovereign responsibility of the States, an essential first step in assessing the requirements for educational television was to first obtain from State Governments details of their needs and priorities, and the extent to which they would be prepared to incur expenditure on educational television services. For this purpose, the Government initiated discussions between Commonwealth and State Ministers at a conference held in 1966 and the State Governments have since been examining their individual positions in this matter, bearing in mind' their heavy commitments in the field of education generally. The Commonwealth had previously indicated that it was prepared to provide some additional finance for expanding instructional television programmes if such expansion were desired by the States, and if the States were also prepared to contribute resources for the purpose.

A further conference took place on 17th November, 1969. by which time it had become apparent that overseas development of new techniques in electronic aids to teaching, particularly advances in television recording and renlay requirements, had become a significant consideration in relation to any planning for the future development of educational television services.

Accordingly, it was agreed at the 1969 Conference that a Special Committee comprising Commonwealth and State representatives should be established for the purpose of investigating technological developments with a view to reporting back to a further meeting of Federal and State Ministers. Whilst the committee's investigations are still continuing, they have been complicated by the fact hat a system for the recording and replaying of educational television programmes, to be effective, must meet the every-day educational requirements of simplicity in operation, interchangeability between reproducing units and maximum reliability with minimum technical maintenance.

On present indications, it would seem possible that the use of recorded programmes and playback machines may be the answer rather than the use of a transmitted system of educational television programmes; this bears out the wisdom of the Government's original decision not to proceed with the establishment of a transmitted system of educational television services.

Whilst it was recognised that a study of the technology developments would not be a short term project, it is essential, nevertheless, to have an informed view on the various issues relating to educational television prior to any decision being taken as to the manner in which educational television services might most appropriately be developed.

The position is therefore that the whole question of educational television is still under consideration both from a technological viewpoint and from the aspect of the needs and priorities of State governments in this field. As the Honourable member will be aware, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is* continuing to provide a considerable number of hours of educational television programmes.

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