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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 353

Senator Walsh —On 21 March 1985 (Hansard, page 571) Senator Bjelke-Petersen asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications the following question without notice:

I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Communications to reports in this week's Press which suggest that the Federal Government's decision to favour a transmission technology known as B-MAC is causing alarm amongst the industry and future rural recipients as well. Will the Minister please comment upon claims that remote and isolated outback inhabitants will have to pay thousands of dollars for expensive receiver equipment which will pick up, in the early stages, only the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and, in the later stages, only one commercial television service? Can the Minister also clarify the suggestion that the high costs and limited receiver potential could lead to a thriving black market in decoders which have the capacity to pick up more than one station?

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

The B-MAC transmission system was chosen because it has several significant advantages: high quality television, six sound channels, teletext and a data channel. It is the most advanced and efficient transmission system available.

I am not aware there is in the industry or in remote areas any alarm which derives from this decision.

The Government has a commitment to make basic television and radio services available to all Australians. The satellite system is designed to make possible ABC television and radio services and similar commercial services.

It is the first step in the progressive equalisation of services to all Australians.

The Federal Government decided last year to grant licences to provide one commercial television signal to remote areas in each of four zones: Western Australia; South Australia and the Northern Territory; Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales; and Queensland. The signals will be encoded so that they cannot be picked up outside the remote areas.

The scheme, known as the Remote Commercial Television Service (RCTS), will allow for a regionally oriented services and is designed to enable reception through the less costly dishes planned for The Homestead and Community Broadcasting Satellite Service (HACBSS). The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal reported in May on the first RCTS licence in Western Australia. The Minister has endorsed the Tribunal's recommendation that Golden West Network should be the licensee.

In regard to the first part of Senator Bjelke-Peterson's question, the Government's first priority is to provide basic services to the outback as soon as possible. The vehicles for this are the HACBSS and RCTS services. It should be noted that, according to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's estimates, a national beam solution would cost consumers up to $106 million more than the spot beam solution which will be used for HACBSS and RCTS.


Senator Walsh —On 23 May 1985 (Hansard, page 2429) Senator Missen asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications the following question without notice:

I referred to certain recent evidence by United States sources which I made available to the Minister for Finance and to the Minister for Communications. What the Minister has told us is what is normally understood but what I am asking is: Is this affecting the present decision of the Tribunal?

The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The Minister for Communications was not previously aware of the findings of the United States Task Force on Violence. In any case as I previously indicated it is the responsibility of the Tribunal to set program standards. The Tribunal monitors overseas developments and the Minister has drawn its attention to the Task Force findings.