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Thursday, 13 October 1949

Mr BEALE (Parramatta) .- The system of broadcasting, that we enjoy in Australia, or that we used to enjoy, differs from the systems that are in operation in some other countries. We have what may be described as a compromise broadcasting system. We have national stations, which are conducted under the aegis of the Government, and commercial stations, which are conducted by private enterprise as profit-making institutions. It may be said that, like most compromises, that system contains the worst features of two systems and, therefore, that it is a bad one. I should not like to see the American broadcasting system in force in Australia. In the United States of America there are only commercial broadcasting stations. I rather think I should prefer the British system, properly operated. I emphasize thewords " properly operated " because I know that if broadcasting in this country were under the control of the Minister who represents the Postmaster=General inthis chamber, the system would not be properly operated. Broadcasting would immediately become the instrument of propaganda by him and by the Government. E am prepared to support the compromisesystem that is in operation in Australis because it gives us the benefit of a degree of competition and affords the public access to broadcasting from stations other than those operated by .the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We have now reached the stage when the shadow is over the commercial stations. If events follow the course that the Minister and the Government desire them to follow, I have no doubt that in due course those stations will be destroyed.

Mr Calwell - Will the honorable gentleman be precise?

Mr BEALE - If events follow the course that the Minister desires them to follow, the commercial stations will be utterly destroyed. I know that the Minister wishes broadcasting in Australia to be a government monopoly. At the present time the commercial stations are feeling the draught, if I may put it in that way. Recently I read in this chamber a letter from the Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations which indicated that the attitude of the commercial stations towards the Government was very timid and even slightly fawning.

Mr Calwell - That is not fair to the commercial stations.

Mr BEALE - I think that it is an understatement. The commercial stations should have known better. I should have though that unlike Little Red Riding Hood they would have recognized the wolf, dressed up though it is. Perhaps they know better now. I was shocked to notice, ou that occasion, that they were prepared to concede frequency modulation to the Government. On the short term view, .that might leave the existing wave band in such a state that no new stations could compete with the present ones, but that seemed to me to be a short-sighted view. There is no doubt now that the commercial stations are on the way out. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) pointed out a few nights ago that, with television a government monopoly and denied to the commercial stations as a means of radio expression, it would not be long before all of them were completely out of business.

Mr Calwell - Do not believe it.

Mr BEALE - I suppose that the Minister saw a television programme in his brief peripatetic exercise overseas a few months ago.

Mr Calwell - I have been televised.

Mr BEALE - Good God, have we come to that? Things have come to a peculiar pass indeed. That might offer a setback to this scientific device. However that may be, there is no doubt that anybody who has seen television must be driven immediately to the conclusion that it will displace any other form of radio broadcasting immediately it -is introduced into this country. All other forms of broadcasting will rapidly become obsolete, and since the Government has taken television to its own exclusive use and denied it to the commercial stations, the compromise system, which we have adopted, which works reasonably well, and which I, for one, approve for reasons that I have indicated will go, and thereafter, we shall have a Government monopoly of broadcasting. That is contingent, of course, upon the Labour Government being returned to office.

Mr Calwell - That is certain.

Mr BEALE - In my view, it is a little better than a hypothesis.

Mr Calwell - We are odds on favorites.

Mr BEALE - I take leave to doubt it. However, if this Government is re-elected, the commercial stations may regard themselves as on the way out. It is just as well that they should be told that they are on the way out, if they have not already awakened to that fact. The private banks and the insurance companies have awakened up. The managing authorities of many private institutions thought, "Oh, it is all right. The Government will not touch us. We are O.K. We can play along with the Government ". However, they have wakened up at last. I hope that the commercial broadcasting stations will similarly wake up to the danger, and fight the Government, which intends to gobble them up, as the wolf tried to gobble up dear Little Red Riding Hood.

Mr Calwell - Why does not the honorable member wake up?

Mr BEALE - I am endeavouring to stay awake, but it is very difficult to do so when I am vis-a-vis the Minister. 1 direct attention, not only to the menace which faces us, but also to the more subtle danger with which we are confronted, of the infiltration of Government propaganda into the ears and minds of the people through the medium ofthe Australian Broadcasting Commission. All honorable members on this side of the chamber, and some honorable members opposite who are still capable of a little objective thinking - I do not include the Minister in that statement - will agree that listeners hear government propaganda to a nauseating degree over the Australian Broadcasting Commission at the present time.

Mr Calwell - That is absolute nonsense.

Mr BEALE - Is it? We shall see. A few weeks ago, I listened to the broadcast of a production by a man named Norman Robb, which was a rather subtle eulogium of the Government's social services. It was put into a pseudodramatic form, and was the same sort of thing as we have read in the expensive booklet that has been sent to all parts of the Commonwealth at the taxpapers' expense, praising the social services of this precious Government.

Mr Fraser - Is the honorable member opposed to social services?

Mr BEALE - I listened to that particular broadcast with more than a little annoyance, and all honorable members, including the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Fraser), know that I am a most amiable and placid person.

Mr Fraser - I agree; but apparently the honorable member is opposed to social services.

Mr BEALE - I took the trouble to get a copy of the script. It was a subtle piece of government propaganda.

Mr Calwell - Why not read it now?

Mr BEALE - I shall present the Minister with a copy of it later. I have not a copy in front of me now, but he will take my word, if he will take the word of any one, when I say that I read it again and again.

Mr Calwell - I shall give the honorable member my comments on it.

Mr BEALE - Heaven forbid that the Minister should do that! I say that it was a subtle piece of propaganda. It is a poor state of affairs when the Government's station is putting out that kind of stuff, which is not objective.

Mr Fraser - Why does the honorable member make that statement against Mr. Robb, without producing a tittle of evidence in support of his views? It is most unfair.

Mr BEALE - I make that statement because I listened to the broadcast and read the script.

Mr Fraser - Why does not the honorable member produce some evidence to support his remarks?

Mr BEALE - If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is interested, be may, as the Scriptures say, " read, mark, learn and inwardly digest " the script. I shall lend him a copy of it.

Mr Fraser - The honorable member should not have made that statement against Mr. Robb without producing evidence.

Mr BEALE - Rubbish !

Mr Fraser - That is the honorable member's standard.

Mr BEALE - It was a piece of Government propaganda on social services. That broadcast is not the only example. Again and again, through the medium of the national stations, we have pieces of information and other items in the news services, and elsewhere in the programmes, with an iteration and reiteration of names of Ministers in a quite unnecessary way, and certainly in a way that one does not hear when listening to the news services of the British Broadcasting Corporation. We in Australia do not seem .to have learned to apply objectivity, detachment and impartiality in our news broadcasts. I say publicly, because this is not only my comment but also the comment of many Australians, that we are irritated by the fact that, again and again, items from the Australian Broadcasting Commission reveal a slant which is not so impartial as the national stations should be. We hear reports of tinpot and minor activities that have no real news value, but merely relate to some Minister. We have the story of how the " standover committee " - the Broadcasting Committee - seeks to influence the actions of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. We have the celebrated incident some years ago when the Australian Broadcasting Commission sought on Trafalgar Day, which is the 21st October, to make a broadcast about Admiral Nelson, and a Minister interfered and said, " 'Aven't you got any Australian admirals you Gan talk about? "

Mr Calwell - When was that?

Mr BEALE - A, few years ago.

Mr Calwell - It was on account of Lady Hamilton.

Mr BEALE - The Minister, of course, would be familiar with that aspect of the famous seaman's life. When a Labour member heard of the Australian Broadcasting Commission's proposal for Trafalgar Day, all he could say was, " 'Aven't you got an Australian admiral you can talk about ? " The Australian Broadcasting Commission managed to laugh that one off, but we all have noticed from time to time, this subtle influence in the broadcasts of news and other items, which give quite a Government slant. I do not blame .the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as such. Itis an institution that is trying to do its best, but I do blame the Government and members of the Labour party who are trying to destroy the impartiality of that organization. We must develop in our national news broadcasts a tradition of complete impartiality and objectivity, which, to date, we have failed to do. If we allow our national broadcasting system to become a vehicle of political propaganda for the government of the day, and in making this statement I disregard the political views of that government, we shall sooner or later completely destroy democracy as an instrument in thi3 country. I have wanted to say this for a long time. I know that the Minister does not agree with me. He wants the Australian Broadcasting Commission to be the mouthpiece of the Government.

Mr Calwell - I do not.

Mr BEALE - If he continues to apply his present policy, and permits the Australian Broadcasting Commission to become a propaganda agent for the Govern ment, he will destroy the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and democracy itself.

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