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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 1955 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

FM commercial radio stations in Canberra have continued to grow without any new competition to fight for those revenues and profits.

The inevitable conclusion is that the existing players resist the issuing of new licences, only because they wish to protect their profits. It is my view that these profits are artificially increased by the regulatory regime and were not intended by the legislature to be maintained for so long. Those who oppose additional licences being issued disregard the objects of diversity, efficiency, competitiveness and plurality when they contend that the market cannot withstand new FM commercial licences. (Extension of time granted.)

The monopolistic market that now exists for FM commercial stations in Canberra is dangerous. It is dangerous because there is no diversity in control of the more influential broadcasting services in this town. It strangles diversity of programming. It strangles competitive pressures that would otherwise lead to better services. News and current affairs, editorial comment and the general outlook will be more controlled and less diverse if ownership is concentrated. Those things cannot happen if concentration is diluted.

In conclusion, Canberra needs a new commercial FM radio licence for four reasons. The first is demand. Canberra has not had a new commercial radio station in nearly 15 years. Our economy, population and advertising market have increased significantly in that time.

The second reason is competition. There has been a significant loss of competition in the market since the Austereo/Australia Radio Network joint venture to buy out the two FM stations and the Capital Radio Group's purchase of 2CA and 2CC. This means that there are only two players in the Canberra commercial radio market.

The third reason is diversity, which is relevant in both programming and news. With the loss of the two local TV news services and with a monopolistic daily newspaper and the merger of the newsrooms at 2CA/2CC and FM 104.7/MIX 106.3, the Canberra market is now badly underserviced.

The fourth reason is reduced business costs. More competition in the market will lead to lower advertising rates for local businesses.

Mr Speaker, I call on the ABA to issue a further commercial radio licence immediately to the licence area covering the ACT, and I seek support for the motion.

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (4.19): Mr Speaker, the opposition does not disagree with the thrust of what Mr Hargreaves has put before the Assembly this afternoon. It agrees that the widest possible diversity in the Canberra marketplace is a desirable objective. It agrees that the ACT has probably missed out on something of value by not having a further commercial radio licence issued to it in the recent allocations by the Australian Broadcasting Authority. It agrees that there are elements of the community that would benefit from additional access to radio. It agrees that the ABA should be prompted to consider whether the ACT's position should be compensated for and the last ABA decision should be compensated for by allowance or provision for an additional licence in the next round of licence allocations.

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