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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 390

(Question No. 67)

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

(1) Is the Minister for Communications aware of media reports expressing public concern about the recent decision of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to grant an FM public radio licence in Canberra to a racing and sporting organisation linked with the Australian Capital Territory Gaming and Liquor Authority.

(2) Does the Minister consider it appropriate that the ACT Gaming and Liquor Authority should be in a position to influence or control a public broadcasting licence.

(3) Does the Minister consider that statutory authorities should be major financers of public broadcasting stations; if not, what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that statutory authorities, other than educational institutions, are not issued with public broadcasting licences (as reflected in the guidelines for public broadcasting issued in 1978), or that public broadcasting licences are not issued to groups which statutory authorities are in a position to control.

(4) Does the Minister consider that the recent changes to the Broadcasting and Television Act, which permit a single member of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to decide a matter before him or her, are appropriate in a contested hearing; if not, does the Minister intend to change this state of affairs in the forthcoming changes to the Broadcasting and Television Act.

(5) Given the nature of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's recent decision not to grant a licence to Canberra Stereo Public Radio, will the Minister be calling for applications, in the near future, for a further public FM licence to service music and arts interests in Canberra.

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

(1) Yes.

(2) As stated in a reply to a Question Without Notice on 28 February 1985 on this subject, the granting of licences is a matter for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, not the Minister. The matter of the Australian Capital Territory Gaming and Liquor Authority's involvement in the applicant is discussed at length in the Tribunal's Report into the Grant of a Category S Public Broadcasting Station Licence to service the Canberra Statistical District, paragraphs 11.29 to 11.63.

(3) It is proposed that new provisions be drafted for the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942, covering eligibility, ownership or control matters which will apply specifically to public broadcasting, abandoning the current unsatisfactory application of commercial sector provisions to public broadcasting. These amendments would reflect the main points of the Guidelines issued in 1978. The application of these provisions is and will continue to be a matter for the Tribunal.

(4) The uniform inquiry procedures in the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act 1985, recently passed by Parliament, will streamline Tribunal inquiries and give early warning of contentious issues likely to arise in the course of an inquiry. The Tribunal may in such cases choose to consider these issues as a body, or appoint more than one member to hear the inquiry.

(5) A successful appeal has been made to the Federal Court since the original decision of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal not to grant a licence to Canberra Stereo Public Radio. An appeal against this decision has now been lodged with the Full Court by Canberra District Racing and Sporting Broadcasters, the group to whom the Tribunal had originally granted a licence.

It would be inappropriate for me to take any further action pending the outcome of this appeal.