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Thursday, 15 October 1970


Mr MacKELLAR (Warringah) - I join with other honourable members tonight in raising a matter concerning section 1 14 of the Broadcasting and Television Act, which states that the licensees of commercial television stations are required, as far as possible, to use the services of Australians in the production and presentation of their programmes. Honourable members would be aware that since 1960 there have been requirements in the legislation designed to give meaning to the provision I have just mentioned. One requirement is that a specified percentage of programmes will be of Australian origin - this is, of course, now 50 per cent - and that during popular viewing times not less than a specified minimum of Australian programmes will be televised. This later requirement has progressively increased from 4 hours a 4-week period in 1960 to 18 hours a 4- week period in 1969. In addition, requirements which were introduced

In 1967 specified that television stations should televise an aggregate of at least 2 hours of drama as part of the 18 hours a 4-week period. I note that the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June 1970 states, when discussing these matters:

The Board regards the production and presentation of Australian drama as particularly important. It has been strongly represented that steady development of this part of Australian programming is essential to the proper training of the country's resources of writers, producers, directors, actors and technical staff in the Television Industry.

The report goes on to say that there is concern over the stability of the drama section of the entertainment industry, a stability necessary to ensure a steady improvement in both quality and quantity of production and also that the Board is currently reviewing its Australian content requirement. On the face of it, the Australian content requirements appear to be sound and reasonable.

Whilst one would hesitate to interfere with the rights of commercial television channels to decide what types of programmes they wish to present, how much they should spend on the programmes and where they should acquire the programmes, I believe that there is a good case to be made for the proposition that Australian television stations should present a balanced total programme which not only presents material portraying the life, customs and cultural mores of other countries, but which also presents material which reflects similar aspects of Australia's national ethos. Only by so doing can the viewing public be exposed to a representative sample of life styles and cultural influences.

I believe the Broadcasting Control Board and the management of television stations agree with this proposition that Australian television stations have almost a moral obligation to foster local talent which after all should contribute significantly to the total cultural influences operating within this country. Should this talent not be sufficiently fostered, then culturally we are forced towards becoming totally imitative and I believe this to be undesirable. Having said this, we should look to see whether the policy of the Board is producing a desirable result.

I believe that whilst they are certainly a step in the right direction, the requirements I have already outlined do contain some aspects which lend themselves to close scrutiny to see how they are actually assisting and encouraging local talent. The requirement is for 50 per cent of total programmes to be of Australian origin - and before dealing with this I noted in the report that 4 of the 15 metropolitan commercial television stations did not reach that percentage. But to make up that 50 per cent requirement, various loadings are used which, through their provision, mean that the actual percentage of programmes of Australian . origin is much less. For example, programmes designated as being indigenous Australian drama are rated at 200. per cent - in other words, for every hour of viewing time, the station is credited with 2 hours of Australian content. Not only this, but if an indigenous drama programme . is re-run - in other words has done nothing to contribute further to the well-being and future of the Australian entertainment industry - it is again credited with a 200 per cent contribution, and there are at least 3 Australian productions being re-run and recredited at the moment.

We therefore have 2 questions which need careful attention. The first is: Should indigenous drama productions be credited with twice their running time in the first place? I doubt the wisdom of this. Secondly, should they be re-credited with twice their running time every time they are re-run?

With respect to this latter question I think this proposition is unwise and difficult to defend, simply because in rerunning the programmes the intention of the requirement - that is. to stimulate and foster local talent - is not being met.

Other Australian drama productions are credited with one and a half times their actual duration - and children's programmes which are designed and produced in Australia in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 15 of the Television Programme Standards again receive credit for twice the actual duration. Obviously the questions directed to the crediting of indigenous drama productions apply to these programmes also. There is another provision which further works against the

Australian industry, and this is the provision that if programmes are produced in British Commonwealth countries they will receive credit as if they were Australian programmes for half their actual duration with a maximum credit of 5 per cent in any 28 day period.

Although I have not seen any actual figures, the number of British shows alone being shown on commercial television leads me to believe that the full 5 per cent must be taken up. This then means that, apart from anything else, Australian produced programmes would occupy only 45 per cent of programme time. I wonder how many Commonwealth countries - particularly Britain - encourage Australian television shows on their stations in a similar way. The type of programme also is of great significance. At present the legislation requires that at least 2 hours of Australian drama must be included in the 18 hours of Australian content during the peak viewing times of the 4-week periods. .1 believe that this requirement also should be questioned with a view to an increase in the requirement. It is accepted that dramatic productions utilise many more people, in the form of writers, directors, producers, actors, etc., than do activities such as sports telecasts. Whilst not wishing to denigrate for one moment the role and popularity of programmes featuring sporting events, I think it can be fairly argued that such programmes do not provide a full measure of cultural influence for the viewing public. These are aspects which the Board in its review is no doubt giving full consideration. There are many others also requiring investigation, such as the proposition to introduce some form of tariff protection for local television production, or the proposal that a certain percentage of the total financial outlay of Australian commercial television stations should be spent in Australia.

The essential thing is that there appear to be good grounds for the complaints by the local television entertainment industry that an insufficient slice of the large financial cake which keeps our television stations' programmes going, is being retained in Australia. If one agrees that a strong, economic local entertainment industry - I use 'entertainment industry' in its broadest sense - should be our aim, then the complaints should be examined as quickly as possible and adjustments in the requirements, if found to be necessary, put into effect. I would hope also that once the examination at present being conducted into these matters is concluded, a complete account of the examination and the reasons supporting the various recommendations will be made available so that everyone will have the benefit of a meaningful assessment of the recommendations.







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