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Tuesday, 6 November 1973
Page: 1520


Senator WEBSTER (VICTORIA) - I ask the Minister for the Media whether his attention was drawn to a statement by Senator James McClelland, the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, that TCN

Channel 9 should lose its television licence because it failed to give the Australian Labor Party free time on television. Does the Minister for the Media agree with Senator James McClelland or is this attitude totally unacceptable as TCN 9 has not been guilty of any breach of the Broadcasting and Television Act? Also, is it a fact that one political party, the Liberal Party, required prime viewing time and obtained it between 8.30 and 9.30 p.m. and so was prepared to pay for it? Is it a fact that other television stations, which made no charge for political broadcasts, put those programs on at 11.15 p.m. when, as the Minister would agree, ratings would be particularly low? Will the Minister give us his view on these matters?


Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES)

Firstly, I think that Senator Webster has quoted my colleague Senator James McClelland incorrectly when he, Senator Webster, suggests that Senator James McClelland said that the licence of Channel 9 should be suspended or revoked because Channel 9 did not give the Labor Party free time on television. If Senator Webster has a look at what was said by my colleague, who is the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which is inquiring into all aspects of radio and television, I think he will find that Senator James McClelland suggested that an inquiry should be held into whether or not the licence of Channel 9 should be suspended or revoked because it did not give reasonable opportunities to all political parties. That is my impression of what the honourable senator said- not what Senator Webster has suggested.

I understand that the other television stations gave free time to the major political parties and put the programs on at a time that was convenient to the stations. However surely it must be of concern to everyone that under section 116(5) of the Broadcasting and Television Act all broadcasting and television licencees can impose a charge for the broadcasting or televising of the policy speech of a leader of a major political party. If all commercial broadcasting and television licensees adopted that attitude, the cost to a political party in getting its message to the Australian people would be completely prohibitive. That, I suggest, would be the direct antithesis of Australian democracy and clearly would be outside the general public interest. This is a matter that concerns me in its generality and I am having discussions with my colleague the Attorney-General about it.







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