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Thursday, 11 September 1958

Mr CALWELL (Melbourne) .- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) today presented a report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, concerning recommendations which that board had made to him in connexion with the grant of television licences in Brisbane and Adelaide. This Government invited the board ki October, 1957, to hold an inquiry into applications for licences in those two cities. 1 ask honorable members to note that the inquiry commenced in Brisbane on 28th April, 1958. .Long before the Government decided, on 1st 'October, 1957, to invite applications, certain vested interests, in Sydney and Melbourne, particularly, had made their own arrangements at two conferences held in Sydney in April ,and May, 1957, beating the gun by several months, on the type of licence that was to be granted and on the co-operation that was to exist between all the applicants. In effect, before the board commenced any inquiries at all, the vested interests that were after these two licences had decided to try and create a monopoly.

The board presented its report on 25th July this year, nearly two months ago. The Minister was absent for a period through illness, but the Government had the report in its hands and knew of the recommendation as to the grant of licences in each of the two cities. Three applications, all from newspaper, radio manufacturing, and television manufacturing interests were submitted. Nobody else put in an application. There were no other applicants because, after the experiences associated with the granting of licences in Sydney and Melbourne, it was obvious that the board would not be interested in other applications. There were three applications for each city, and the interests concerned expected that two licences would be granted in each city. According to the report the board recommended -

(1)   That fresh applications be invited for one licence for a commercial television station in Brisbane and for one licence in Adelaide;

(2)   That in the selection of a licensee in either city, so far as practicable, the company will be preferred which is able to demonstrate that it is substantially locally owned and is not controlled in any way by any of the companies holding the licences for existing stations or significant shareholders in these companies; and

(3)   That it be understood and, if necessary, be a condition of any licence for a television station in Brisbane and Adelaide that the licensee shall not enter into any exclusive arrangement with any other commercial television station for the provision of programmes or the sale of station time or advertising.

The board, in its report of 140 paragraphs, told the story of those companies. I am glad that the honorable member for Parramatta (Sir Garfield Barwick) is gazing intently and intelligently while I make this observation, because he is mentioned as one of the counsel in the case. The honorable member will remember this part of the board's report, which states -

The whole purpose of our inquiry was toexamine the claims and qualifications of those who applied for the licences, so that we might be in a position to advise the Minister as to the applicants who appeared to be best fitted to ensure the provision of satisfactory television services for the peoples of Brisbane and Adelaide, but, in the submissions which were made to the Board on behalf of some of the applicants, and also of other parties who were granted leave to give evidence after indicating their interest in the proceedings, this seemed to be a secondary consideration. Many of the submissions and much of the evidence were directed to the interests of the existing stations and to their development, and these considerations so dominated the inquiry as to give rise to basic issues in relation to the future of the commercial television services in thi? country.

That is serious talk. Paragraph 130 of the report reads -

While, in the case of each application, it was contended that the applicant company would be independent, the proposed construction of certain of the companies is such as to make the conclusion irresistible that, if a licence were to be granted to any one of those companies, one or other of the existing licensees in Sydney or Melbourne would, in practise, be in a position to exercise control of the station.

The next portion of that paragraph, which is quite germane and very important, reads -

The documents contained in Appendix E indicate that meetings were held in 1957-

As I said, almost a year before the inquiry started - at which representatives of the Sydney and Melbourne stations discussed the best manner in which their companies might share the advantages to be derived from the establishment of stations in Brisbane: It seemed to be assumed that the same considerations would apply to Adelaide. At these meetings, the formation of groups to apply for licences in Brisbane was considered, and whilst the papers show that some other parties were to be included as shareholders in the applicant company or companies, the general impression to be gained from the documents is that the purpose of the meetings and subsequent negotiations was to attempt to produce the result that the station, or stations, to be established in Brisbane would be operated as an extension of the activities of the Sydney and Melbourne stations, and that the new territory would be divided accordingly.

This board, which is appointed' to protect the public interest, made its recommendations. But to-day, in the House, the PostmasterGeneral, when he tabled his report, said -

I lay on the table of the House the report of the Australian Broadcasting- Control Board on its inquiry into the- applications received for licences for commercial television stations in Brisbane and Adelaide. The principal' recommendation in the Board's report is that one licence should be issued in- each, of those cities.. The Government however has decided that two licences should be granted in each case. It has asked the Board to make recommendations as to which applicants should' receive the licences.

That is,, which of the existing applicants should receive the licences. The board says in its report that none of the applicants is satisfactory, and that if any of the present applicants are granted, licences the effect will be to make Brisbane and Adelaide dependent on. the big financial institutions in Sydney and Melbourne. One Sydney commercial station is owned largely by the "Sydney Morning Herald". The other station is. substantially owned by the " Daily Telegraph ". In Melbourne, one station is owned by the Melbourne " Herald " and another is owned by Electronic Industries Limited, of which Sir Arthur Warner is the presiding genius. Those are the stations that are owned by the little group that set out in 1957 to get control of the proposed stations. Paragraph 96 of the board's report quotes a memorandum from Sir John Williams, stating that the purpose of a. meeting held in April, 1957, was to - form a combined company out of the proposed groups, and try te exact some promise or undertaking from the Government that in the granting of a second licence, none of us should be debarred by agreeing to combine in the early stages of development.

Well, pressure has certainly been brought to bear, and those groups have obtained what they wanted. Last week, I read about alleged activities of the Mafia in Melbourne. The Mafia has its own stand-over methods and ways of exerting pressure, but organized big business could teach the Mafia a lot of tricks about exerting pressure. Unfortunately, my time is very limited-

Mr Buchanan - That is a good thing.

Mr CALWELL - I am well aware that honorable members opposite do not want the facts revealed.

Mr HAROLD HOLT (HIGGINS, VICTORIA) - The PostmasterGeneral tabled the report, did he not?

Mr CALWELL - He did, but the Government does. not. want much discussion on it. There are letters in Appendix E which I cannot, quote in full. The second letter in Appendix E is addressed to the managing director of the Herald and Weekly Times Limited, and it is marked " Strictly Personal ". The signatory is Mr. Clive Ogilvy. After saying that it would be convenient to attend a meeting in Sydney on 20th or 21st May, 1957. Mr. Ogilvy writes -

I appreciate that none of the parties has any commitment other than to continue discussionson Brisbane, but hopeful that we can arrive at a just and equitable " one for all - all for one " approach.

The committee can well appreciate how the discussion progressed at this conference, with an earnest endeavour to find1 a " one for all - all for one " approach. The proceedings should have been televised, because the get-together spirit of sweet reasonableness soon gave way, as subsequent documents show, to a tougher and more gogetting approach. Mr. Ogilvy's attempt to run a unity ticket apparently failed. Two months later, Mr. Ogilvy wrote to a character not identifiable in the board's report, whom he describes as Angus McLachlan, Esquire. To show that he is on speaking terms with, the gentry, Mr. Ogilvy tells Dear Angus; -

Take it that there is still no word from Warner or- Williams. Unless some: concrete sign of " allness " or " oneness " must conclude that the " all for one - one for all " approach to Brisbane has failed, perhaps we are a bunch of nympholeps

Honorable members, including the honorable member for Parramatta, will know what a nympholept is. Nympholeptcy is a combination of two words - nymph and epilepsy. A nympholept, such as Mr. Clive Ogilvy thinks Angus McLachlan and himself to be, is. according to the dictionary, a person suffering from a frenzy caused by contemplation of, or furious desire for, an unrealizable ideal or objective. This board wanted nothing to do with Ogilvy, Warner, Williams, Packer, Henderson, or any other of the applicants, but the board had been told, as we have seen, by the Government, to choose which two out of the three collections of nympholepts in Brisbane, and which two of the three in Adelaide are to he allowed to operate in a manner detrimental to the public interest. But perhaps

I am wrong. Mr. Ogilvy and his fellowconspirators - because that is how the board regards them; I am not using the term - are no longer to be regarded as nympholepts Their frustrations have been swept aside by an accommodating government! No longer nympholepts, they are incipient recipients. This desire for oneness or allness was never realized, but we do find the managing director of the Melbourne "Herald" telling "Dear Clive" on 27th February, 1958-

As far as one applicant can wish another success with any high degree of sincerity, I would say that we wish you success with your Queensland application.

They fall out a little later, and they dispute what happened at a meeting, because, on 4th March, 1958. Mr. Ogilvy wrote to " Dear Sir John " -

I certainly remember our meeting in Sydney but I am clear that this meeting failed to' reach agreement or any common understanding on the approach to the Brisbane application. I recall that at one stage of this meeting my own views were so opposed to yours that you strongly suggested I should leave the conference table.

The brawling, the lobbying, the intriguing, the desire of one group to gobble another, and all the other characteristic activities of big business will probably be again enacted if the board re-opens the inquiry. But the Government has told the board specifically to select two of the three groups and not to worry about anybody else coming into the matter. All I hope is that all proceedings at the next meeting of the board will be televised.

What 1 want to emphasize is that the board's report vindicates the Opposition on four counts. First, it justifies the Labour party's policy of nationalization of television by exposing the impossibility of preventing the creation of a monopoly of commercial television.

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