Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 7 Hansard (5 June) . . Page.. 1957 ..
MS TUCKER (continuing):
Allocating another commercial licence is not necessarily an answer to diversity. There is no reason to assume that a new player in the commercial radio market would deliver a diverse or locally relevant product. As Mr Humphries said, the history of commercial television in the ACT is a salutary one.
When the commercial TV market amalgamated some years ago, the amalgamation was promoted to the Canberra population as a guarantee of access to the best TV for everyone, more choice, more local news and entertainment. Now every local channel is locked into a national network that determines all its scheduling, dooms Canberra people to not necessarily relevant programs in prime time and prevents programs we might like at a watchful hour. The only Canberra ingredients on Prime and Capital are local advertisements, with the occasional weather report. Prime, I understand, was even unable to secure a delayed telecast of the Brumbies Super 12 rugby final. So much for their contribution to community.
It is clear that, as business is interested in profit and share value before all else, networks cannot afford an overriding commitment to diversity, quality or local relevance, whatever they might say when they enter the market. The Greens would be interested in licences and increased resources for community-based or not-for-profit broadcasters.
Canberra needs vigorous local news and reporting, incorporating increased scrutiny of local issues and government in general. It needs broadcast opportunities for local musicians and other artists. It needs opportunities for Canberra residents to create and present TV, radio and web products.
If a new commercial radio station was attached to a production house that was accessible and affordable, if that commercial station itself was governed by principles of engagement with the local community and accountability to it, and if that station was offering to supply a program mix that was undeniably different to the product already available through the national and commercial broadcasters already free to air in the ACT, then the case for a new station would be much stronger.
The Greens are committed to diversity in ownership in Australian media, but we are also very supportive of regulation and licensing regimes which encourage creativity, diversity and participation in the broadcasting industry.
MR HARGREAVES (4.26), in reply: Mr Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition and Ms Tucker for their support. I take the point that another licence would not guarantee diversity. Without that licence, there definitely will not be diversity. There has to be a movement in the direction of diversity. We have seen the direction TV has taken. I agree that we have to look upon the suppliers of media services with some suspicion. The last thing in the world we want is another network radio station. The two networks already running do not achieve anything.
I underscore the points Mr Humphries made, because I think they are very valid. We all recognise the role community broadcasters play in a specialised marketplace. A lot of them are strapped for cash most of the time. 2SSS, the racing station, is strapped for cash. XXX FM is always strapped for cash. These broadcasters have licences but they depend largely on volunteer labour, and they are always short of cash to keep themselves