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Thursday, 20 May 1993
Page: 942

Senator KEMP (1.13 p.m.) —As honourable senators will be aware, there have been many issues regarding pay TV which have been extensively canvassed in this chamber over the last two weeks or so—indeed, over the last two or three hours. I will not traverse the ground which has already been covered. However, an issue has emerged which, I believe, is of great interest to Victorians. Specifically, when all these matters are finally resolved, where will the ABC pay TV headquarters be located? This is no trivial issue; some 240 jobs are at stake.

  Indeed, the acting Managing Director of the ABC, Mr Conroy, advised the Senate estimates committee hearing last week that it was estimated there might be 100 jobs on a pay TV news channel, and up to 140 jobs on a second channel which would be a children's channel with an arts component and a documentary component. In addition, Mr Conroy emphasised the stimulatory effect which pay TV will have and its potential for providing significant knock-on effects to other sectors of the industry. Indeed, I believe these knock-on effects will lead to a multiplier impact and will result in a very significant boost in jobs for people such as actors and producers, and production houses and industries generally affiliated with the television industry. It will provide major career opportunities for the media in Melbourne, particularly the men and women employed by the ABC who, very sensibly, prefer to live in Melbourne.

  The location of the ABC's pay TV headquarters and production facilities is currently under consideration by the management and board of the ABC. It appears that the two locations being actively considered are Melbourne and Sydney. There is no technical reason why ABC pay TV should not be based in Melbourne. At a Senate estimates hearing, the Minister for Transport and Communications, Senator Collins, perhaps reflecting the interests of the Northern Territory, said:

With the technology available these days I am sure it—

and he meant pay TV—

could effectively operate from the top of Ayers Rock.

I do not believe that there is any economic reason why Sydney should be preferred to Melbourne for the location of this very important facility.  However, the decision that is made will touch on the more fundamental issue of whether the ABC is truly a national broadcaster or whether it is simply the Sydney broadcasting corporation masquerading as a national broadcaster.

  The ABC TV budget totals some $360 million. It is collected, as honourable senators will be aware, from taxpayers all around Australia. The ABC spends some 70 per cent of this TV budget in New South Wales, yet only 34 per cent of the population of Australia live in that State. I simply do not believe that this concentration of ABC activities in one capital city can be justified. Whatever the historical reasons for concentrating activities in Sydney, modern technology has opened up the opportunity for a major decentralisation of ABC activity. It is also worth noting that the other public broadcaster—the Special Broadcasting Service—has also concentrated its activities in Sydney. Melbourne has excellent facilities and staff resources on which to base this major new ABC venture. I urge the ABC board to take this opportunity to demonstrate that the excessive concentration of ABC activity in Sydney is coming to an end.