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Monday, 22 October 1973
Page: 2480

Mr Street asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:

(1)   What will be the percentage rise in costs to country radio stations who wish to use landlines to provide 3 x 15 minute news services per day, as a result of the Government's proposal to abolish concessional rates on the use of landlines.

(2)   Does the Government consider that the revenue which would be raised as a result of abolishing telecommunications concessions to the media outweigh the reduction in the ability of local radio stations to disseminate news of sporting and other information.

(3)   How many country radio stations operaed unprofitably in 1971-772.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   There are now sixteen country radio stations receiving a basic news service from either the Australian Broadcasting Commission or a Commercial Broadcasting Station. Each of these stations has been paying the Post Office $104 yearly for the communication facilities used for the purpose of receiving the news service making a total payment of $1664. The application of the prescribed basis of charging for the communication facilities in question would increase the amount payable by the radio stations to about $18,000 yearly overall. The increase would vary in each case depending upon the method used to feed the news into the country radio stations.

(2)   The Government feels that it is wrong in principle that services provided for sections of the community should, in effect, be subsidised by the general taxpayer as has been the case with news relays. For your information, I have written to the Federation of Australian Commercial Broadcasters intimating that the application of the revised charges will be deferred for the time being to give the Federation the opportunity, if it so desires, to present a case for the nonimplementation of those charges on a selective basis according to their effects on the financial position of individual stations concerned, or, alternatively, for phasing in the changeover to the new rates over a period of years. Doubtless the effect of the new charging arrangements on the financial position of each of the radio stations concerned will be commented upon by the Federation in its submission and this will be taken into account by the Minister for the Media and myself when reviewing the matter.

(3)   The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in its twenty-fifth annual report, records that of 118 commercial broadcasting stations in operation in 1971-72, 19 operated at a loss.

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