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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 376

(Question No. 193)

Senator Vigor asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, upon notice, on 28 March 1985:

(1) How many extra licences for public broadcasting purposes does the Minister for Communications anticipate being issued:

(a) during the remainder of 1985; and

(b) during each of the 3 subsequent years.

(2) For how many years would a public broadcasting station reasonably be able to expect major equipment to be reliable, and how many public broadcasting stat- ions are now facing the need to replace major items of equipment if they are to maintain the necessary technical standards.

(3) Would the exemption of public broadcasters from the payment of sales tax be an effective way of spreading media skills throughout the community, in view of the training that public broadcasters provide for young unemployed people, and the virtual abdication of that role by other sectors of the radio industry.

Senator Walsh —The Minister for Communications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) It is not possible to predict with any degree of certainty, the number of public broadcasting licences which will be granted over the next several years. The answer to the senator's question is dependent on a number of factors, ranging from the degree of public support that can be generated by groups interested in obtaining a public broadcasting licence, to the Department of Communications capacity to process relevant planning proposals, and the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's ability to schedule and complete public enquiries into the grant of each licence.

The Department of Communications currently has registered 179 expressions of interest in new public broadcasting station licences, and has on hand 31 planning proposals for such services.

(2) The Department of Communications does not gather or maintain data on the type or condition of technical equipment used by public broadcasting stat- ions. As the senator may be aware, the Department is primarily concerned with the adequacy of the signals radiated by licensees. Public Broadcasters make their own arrangements about the provision of technical equipment, and these arrangements vary markedly from station to station. Some licensees have constructed much of their own equipment, whilst others have acquired fully professional transmitter facilities. I suggest that the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia would be best placed to provide the information being sought.

(3) Sales tax exemption on capital equipment purchases would certainly reduce outlays for public broadcasters. The Treasurer has arranged for the question of exemption for goods for use by community public radio stations to be considered when amendments to the sales tax law are next under consideration.