The Role and Future of Radio Australia and Australia Television



There was a significant amount of evidence provided to the Committee which demonstrated that the attitude of ABC Management towards Radio Australia has been one of historical neglect, and even at times perhaps one of disdain. There was also evidence that the ABC's internal cultural problems were very longstanding in relation to Radio Australia, and that it is regarded as the "poor sister" [1] of the ABC "family". [2]

This general lack of "vision" and interest by ABC Management in RA's role and function, was argued to have manifested itself in a number of ways.

Evidence was led by Mr P Barnett, the Director of RA from 1980 to 1989, that pointed to the fact that the relationship between the ABC and RA has not generally been a positive one:

This evidence of tensions between RA management and ABC management supported by other witnesses. Dr Errol Hodge, a senior lecturer in journalism at the Queensland University of Technology, endorsed the broad views of Mr Barnett:

Mr Westland, Chairman of the Staff House Committee at Radio Australia for the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, also concurred with this view:

The following exchange took place in the context of discussing the ABC Management's attitude towards Radio Australia:

It became clear through the evidence presented to the Committee that the difficulties between RA and ABC have been longstanding, having arisen ever since 1950, when RA joined ABC.

In 1973, Mr Peter Homfray, then head of Radio Australia and increasingly frustrated by a perceived unwillingness on the part of the ABC to fund the service adequately, proposed to the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, that RA could become a separate statutory authority under his Department. [8]

It also became evident that, amongst RA staff, there was a perceived lack of commitment to the future of RA demonstrated by ABC Management and the ABC Board:

There was also evidence led by various witness in the Committee hearings that suggested ATV and RA were not taking full advantage of many commercial opportunities. This is greatly regrettable as it means potential sources of increased revenue for RA were lost. As Mr Michael Mann emphatically stated in evidence, when asked to describe ABC's commercial prowess and competence:

Government Senators further suggest that the ABC pursue commercial opportunities more vigorously, so as to maximise its potential funds available, for example in the education sector.


[1] Committee Hansard, p. 168.

[2] Committee Hansard, p. 120.

[3] Committee Hansard, p. 4.

[4] Committee Hansard, pp 214-15.

[5] Committee Hansard, p. 168.

[6] Committee Hansard, pp 10-11.

[7] Committee Hansard, p. 17.

[8] Reported in Hodge, Radio Wars, Truth Propaganda and the Struggle for Radio Australia, Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, Chap.12, p. 257.

[9] Committee Hansard, pp 165-66.

[10] Committee Hansard, p. 137.

[11] Committee Hansard, p. 109.

[12] See discussion at Committee Hansard, p. 114.