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Thursday, 8 September 1983
Page: 563

Mr RONALD EDWARDS(12.23) —I support the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill and the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill. I note that one of the important criteria which are built into the changes is the capacity of the industry to pay. Of course, that is very important when we look at the responsibility of a Commonwealth government towards the broadcasting industry. We are concerned-I believe the Minister for Communications (Mr Duffy) has expressed his concern very adequately-that we should look at the capacity of industry in this area to pay and to remain viable. With that in mind, the measures will affect only those stations that do have capacity to pay. It is also important to note in the Minister's second reading speech on the Broadcasting Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill that a flat fee of $500 is payable on the grant of any new station licence.

I point out to the House that in Perth we have an urgent need for the granting of a new television station licence. Western Australia currently has two commercial networks-TVW7 and STW9. They service the metropolitan and country areas of Western Australia. One can make a very strong case for a third commercial television station for Western Australia. Since the Television Stations Licence Fees Amendment Bill addresses itself to the question of capacity to pay, it is interesting to observe the mean average income of the two metropolitan stations in Western Australia. In 1980-81 they realised some $23m and in 1981-82 they realised some $27m. The total television revenue in 1980-81 of those television stations was $46m and in 1981-82 it was $54m. That suggests that there is certainly capacity of television stations in Perth to pay within the current market. One can make a very strong case that there ought to be a third network.

A third station in Perth would bring the assumed mean average income of three stations in Perth to $18m. That figure of $18m is down on the $27m which is the average amount shared by the two current stations. But honourable members will appreciate that that figure is some $2m higher than the average income of the three stations in Adelaide. When it is recognised that metropolitan Perth now has a higher population than does metropolitan Adelaide, one can make a very strong case for saying that a third commercial television licence ought to be granted in Perth. I believe that a strong case can be made to that effect.

It is interesting to note also that Mr Robert Holmes a Court, the Managing Director of Channel 7 in Perth, said in a radio interview in February 1982:

It wouldn't be my role to oppose a third commercial licence for Perth.

With regard to the industry's performance and the capacity of the community to bear the sorts of things outlined in the Bill, it is quite obvious that the community in Perth could bear a third viable commercial station. It is also interesting to note that it is very difficult for people to buy time on the two existing commercial stations in Perth. In fact, there is a backlog of about two months. Obviously, when examining the question of viability, as this Bill does, one can make a very strong case for a third commercial licence. There would be a demand from business and the community generally in Perth, and a third station could operate very effectively. As this Bill does pay attention to the structure of the industry and to the reasoned performance of industry, I believe that this House should pay great attention to the need expressed by the business community in Perth for a third television licence.

In looking at other factors, one of the things that are important in broadcasting is the responsibility to the community. Applicants for broadcasting licences in Australia have always talked about their responsibility to the community and the importance that they attach to the community having a say in the way those broadcasting licences are conducted. Unfortunately, at the moment, TWV7 in Perth is no longer a publicly listed company. In effect, any input that the community might want to have in that station has diminished. I believe that results in an important decline in the quality of broadcasting in Perth. At the same time, as this Bill talks about the question of capacity to pay, one can make a very strong case, as I said earlier, for a third television station in Perth. When we look at the background to the revenue that would be generated by a third television station in Perth-the population of Perth is now higher than the population of Adelaide-and if we assume an income of $18m for that station, a very strong case can be made for a third television station in Perth. In the terms of this Bill and in the terms of the responsibility of government to provide adequate broadcasting facilities one can make a very strong case. In conclusion, I am pleased to commend these Bills to the House.