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Tuesday, 15 October 1974
Page: 1703

Senator JESSOP (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. I refer to the decision by the Government to grant experimental licences for FM radio in Melbourne and Sydney and the decision to establish new Australian Broadcasting Commission radio stations. Can the Minister say whether discussions have been held with the Public Broadcasting Association and other interested groups with a view to the development of community radio? Does the PostmasterGeneral have the sole responsibility for the granting of new radio licences, whether they are experimental or otherwise? Will the Australian Broadcasting Control Board be the authority to ensure that objective, balanced standards are maintained in the establishment of new radio services or does the Minister plan to establish another representative body to perform that function? Can the Minister indicate whether it is intended that legislation be brought down to ratify the changes which are being proposed for radio broadcasting?

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Media) - I think I have answered already a number of the points embodied in Senator Jessop 's question. For instance, I have mentioned already that under existing legislation stations of the type envisaged by Senator Jessop can be licensed only by my colleague Senator Bishop under the Wireless Telegraphy Act because the Broadcasting and Television Act at present empowers the Board to license stations only for commercial purposes. It can recommend the establishment of stations on a national basis, as it does, and it can recommend the licensing of commercial stations, as it does.

But under the existing legislation it is not empowered to recommend licences for anything other than national or commercial purposes. Therefore it is the responsibility of my colleague Senator Bishop under the terms of the Wireless Telegraphy Act to license stations of the type referred to by the honourable senator. Generally speaking, they are licensed according to standards and conditions that are set by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.

The honourable senator asked me whether discussions have taken place with public broadcasting organisations. I can tell the honourable senator that earlier this year my Department took the initiative of holding a public seminar to engage in community discussion with a wide cross-section of the community that is naturally interested in this type of extension of the broadcasting spectrum. In addition to holding a public seminar my Department also bore a portion of the expenditure in enabling the public broadcasting community groups to hold a seminar of their own so that they could formulate some ideas of their own as to how these organisations should be established. The manner in which the Government will move in future after this experimental period is, of course, a matter of Government policy on which I will not comment at this stage. However, I understand that in the very near future a recommendation will be put to me by my Department that I establish a committee of community broadcasters and others involved in the community to liaise with me and my department on the matter so that we can see where the land lies during the course of and after this experimental period.

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