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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3246

Mr LUCOCK (Lyne) - Some things have been said by the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Sherry) with which I would not agree. On odd occasions he and I have had a difference of opinion on other subjects, but I certainly agree with him in what he said about the system we have in Australia of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial radio and television. I think that under this system we get the best of both worlds. There are certain things that can be done by the Australian Broadcasting Commission that cannot be done by commercial stations. In exactly the same way, there are certain things which the commercial radio stations and television channels can do that may not be quite so easy for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

I want to speak on the estimates for the Department of the Media in relation to broadcasting and television. Before doing so, however, I want to comment on some of the things that have been said by honourable members on both sides in relation to the responsibility of the media in all spheres - in the spheres of the Press, radio and television. Today many things are happening on the world scene and it is necessary to have a well informed public. I believe that the responsibility of the media today is far greater than it has ever been in world history.

I now refer to commercial broadcasting and television and sound a note of warning about some of the steps that are being taken by the present Government in these fields. A little while ago when discussing increased charges for land lines and the various other increased charges by the Postmaster-General's Department, reference was made to profits that are made by radio interests. I appreciate the fact that radio and television must contribute in some way to the costs of these services provided by the Postmaster-General's Department. It was then mentioned that commercial radio and television companies were being formed so that they might make a profit. Those who say this should look first of all at metropolitan broadcasting and television compared with country broadcasting and television.

The policy of the previous Government in the initial stages was to endeavour to have radio and television under the control of people in the area which those media served. I believe that this was a wise policy. I realise that there are many difficulties and complexities in the establishment particularly of television with its high costs. Factors have entered into the situation which have necessitated the joining together of some television channels. This policy is to the advantage of the people in country areas and the television channels. But the original plan of the previous Government was to have local people in local control. If control were to come from a centralised point it would be detrimental not only to the television industry but also to the people in particular areas. The major point is the service given to the area served by both radio stations and television channels.

I will not deny that these companies desire to make a profit. After all, I suppose that is one of the facts and realities of life. But if one looks at radio and television in this country one will find that a great deal of the time of the radio stations and television channels is spent in community effort. I am thinking particularly of times of flood and other emergencies in country areas when the only means of communication has been radio. I know of a number of instances in which lives have been saved and stock have been saved because the radio station was able to broadcast a warning about a river rising and the danger of flooding in the area. As I say, radio and television provide community services. I recall to mind that only a short time ago the 2 television channels in my electorate held a special charities appeal. An amount of money was raised and interest was created in this field of charity. While I do not deny that the commercial stations are interested in making a profit and in providing a return to their shareholders, I believe that the aspect I have just mentioned should be given consideration also. That is why I believe that the policy being followed by the present Government endangers the future of some radio stations and television channels in country areas.

I said earlier that I thought it might be well for people to compare the profits made in metropolitan areas with the profits made in some country areas. I have suggested that the national advertisers should have a look at this when they are allocating their advertising expenditure for a particular year. They might also take into consideration the fact that on a per capita basis, although the country station may not appear to cover the same number of listeners or viewers as a metropolitan station covers, sometimes there is a greater return in advertising in the country area than there is in a metropolitan area. I come back to the service to the community which I believe is part and parcel of country radio and country television.

At a time when costs in these fields are increasing, the Government has made a move which will reduce the income of these stations. Although I do not agree with it, I will not comment on the moves to eradicate cigarette advertising over a period of time. I know that arguments both for and against this question have been put in many quarters and in many countries, but this move will have an effect upon the income of country radio stations and country television channels. At the same time the increase in costs that is being faced by the media is creating something that could cause a lessening of the capacity of these stations to provide services. In many of the country areas the only means by which the country people have a link with sporting activities and other events, including the news, is through the media of television and radio. Of course, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has many advantages because it is linked to many of its regional stations throughout the State and even throughout Australia. In its attitude and thinking, the Government should give consideration to these factors so that radio and television in country areas can continue to play a part in serving the community.

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