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Tuesday, 13 November 1973
Page: 3247

Mr WALLIS (Grey) - I want to maKe a few comments on the estimates for the Department of the Media. My electorate represents over half of South Australia and takes in most of the remote areas. The extension of television services to those remote areas is something that occupies the minds of many of the people living in my electorate. Television services in the more populated portions of the electorate have been available to viewers since about 1965 in the case of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and from about 1966 in the case of the commercial channels. Although these 2 television channels now extend further down the eastern part of Eyre Peninsula and are able to provide a service to approximately 80 per cent of the electorate of Grey, there are still many areas which receive no television service.

It is a fact that in phase 7 of the plans formerly of the Postmaster-General's Department and now of the Department of the Media to give a television coverage to as much of Australia as possible there was provision for the establishment of 38 remote area stations. Two of those remote area stations are in the electorate of Grey. One is at Ceduna, which is on the west coast of South Australia and the other is at the Woomera rocket range, which has an isolated population of about 3,500 to 4,000. The one at Ceduna was opened in the final stage of phase 7 about last June. I received word during the week from the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) that the station at Woomera will be opened on 30 November. Both stations are small. They have a very limited range. They have a maximum range of about 12 to 15 miles. Both stations will serve a very limited number of people.

As I have already said, there are possibly 3,500 to 4,000 people at the Woomera rocket range. There are probably 3,000 to 3,500 people in the Ceduna area. But a great part of the Eyre Peninsula, which has an area of more than 40,000 square miles, will receive no television coverage. Although this area is sparsely populated it is nevertheless populated. It is an area in which there are a number of towns of possibly 600 to 800 people - some towns are smaller and others slightly larger - which receive no television reception. I have raised this matter with the previous Government in the past. I have also taken it up with the present Minister for the Media. Various reasons have been given as to why it is not possible to service these areas. One is that the actual cost of the provision of television services compared with the number of people receiving those services does not justify the outlay of the finance that would make such a television reception possible. I hope that this area will receive its due share in the next phase of the program for the provision of television services in remote areas.

It is hoped that with technological advances in the television field it will be a lot easier to provide areas such as those to which I have referred with a decent television service. I know that a considerable amount of discontent is being created among the people of these areas because television facilities are provided to others around them but those who live in the vast hinterland of the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia are left out. I do not know the technicalities of the situation, but it has been put forward in the past that a large television station placed right in the middle of the area would give a coverage to a considerable part of the area. Of course the question of the cost involved has been raised and again that has been related to the number of people who would be served. It is a fact that the east-west broad band microwave link passes through this area. I certainly hope that it will be possible for these areas to receive a television coverage in the near future.

I have stated in this chamber in the past that I believe that we should not have colour television until such time as the more remote areas are provided with some television reception. I know that I might be bashing my head against a brick wall by saying that at this stage because we all know that possibly at the beginning of July next year we will have colour television. I have had the opportunity of watching colour television and I know that it is very attractive, but I hope that in all of our moves to provide colour television to the more populated areas we will not forget about those isolated areas in which there is no black and white television at the present time. I hope that technological advances and improvements in the field of television will permit the extension of the coverage to those areas that do not receive any television service at present.

I have always been an admirer of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission does not rely on the sponsorship of its programs and so forth. It has the responsibility of providing a general coverage on a wide range of programs to a large number of people. I have always had a high regard for the range and diversity of the programs the ABC provides. It has to provide entertainment for all classes of people. I think the Commission is to be congratulated on the coverage it provides throughout Australia. That applies more so in the broadcasting field than in the television field. As representatives of large electorates would realise, no matter where one goes in Australia one very rarely is in the position of being out of the range of an ABC radio station, although one can often move out of the range of a commercial radio station. I think the Commission is to be congratulated on what it has done in the past and, from what has been said recently, will be able to do in the future.

I return to the subject of television. I know that it is generally held that a grave mistake was made in the provision of an extra channel in the major cities. Various people and organisations have expressed the view that the fourth channel that exists in the major cities and so forth should have been reserved exclusively for educational purposes. I fully agree with them. I think many experts now agree that the wrong step was taken in providing a third commercial channel to the major cities and 'that this channel should have been reserved for use for other purposes. I wish to make just a few more comments before I finish my speech. I was most interested to hear the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) comment on how harshly his former leaders had been treated by the media. I do not know whether the media treated them harshly, but I certainly think that some of the people who sit behind them treated them a bit harshly. The honourable member also commented on the talk-back programs. I agree with the honourable member in this respect. I do not often have an opportunity to listen to talk-back programs. The only occasion I do is when I am listening to the wireless whilst sitting in my car. Irrespective of what the honourable member said, I think the people who run the talkback programs, in South Australia at least, are very anti-Labor and not anti-Liberal. So, although I agree with his criticism of the talkback programs, I think the boot is on the other foot in that respect.

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