ABC MANAGEMENT'S ATTITUDE TOWARDS RADIO AUSTRALIA
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"  of
the ABC "family". 
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:
Mr Barnett, The relationship between RA
and the ABC has not always been positive and it has not always been
effective, at least speaking from my years of association. RA was
very often out of sight, out of mind; something of a mystery, something
of a problem. Senior management in Sydney has not always appreciated
the culture, the capacity and the potential of RA. I might say an
exception was chairman Ken Myer. He was an internationalist and a
visionary. He also came from Melbourne. On the other hand, one ABC
managing director was still referring to Radio Australia as `Radio
National' one year after taking office.
The separation of RA from the ABC would not apparently be of
any considerable disappointment to the current leadership. It appeared
swift in its support of the Mansfield recommendation to close RA. Of
course, it would have been a neat and easy solution to what is clearly
a very difficult financial crisis that they face, and I do not want
to diminish that. In fairness, no management team really wants to preside
over the demolition of an empire. But the sense I have got from the
RA staff is that they expected more overt support from the ABC. Initially,
they thought there was a silence that was followed by proposals for
a vastly scaled down service, which was disappointing. Therefore, I
think a parting of the ways may well be the best outcome. It could well
be something that both sides would now be agreeable to. That was not
always the case, but I think it may well be now. 
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:
Senator FERRIS, It was also suggested to
me that there were many levels of interference run by Sydney against
Radio Australia in Melbourne. I wonder if, given your 27 years with
the organisation, you could comment on that for me, please.
Dr Hodge,Yes, I believe I can. I think that
is an eminently fair description that the people you know in the ABC
have given you. I worked for the ABC overseas and in Sydney for 20 years
and then became editor of Radio Australia and found just how low in
the pecking order Radio Australia was. 
Mr Westland, Chairman of the Staff House Committee at Radio Australia
for the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, also concurred with
Senator FERRIS, I asked the question because
I wondered whether it would put an end to the suggestion I have heard
that the Radio Australia group is at the bottom of the pecking order,the
poor sister, if you like,of the ABC. Have you any comment to make
Mr Westland,It would probably exacerbate
that situation rather than improve it unfortunately.
Senator FERRIS,So you are not denying that
Mr Westland,We are at the bottom of the barrel.
There is no doubt about that. We would be very much at that stage. 
The following exchange took place in the context of discussing the
ABC Management's attitude towards Radio Australia:
Senator FERRIS,I was talking to a member
of the current staff of Radio Australia during our visit out there
today, and he described the service within the ABC as the cultural
Cinderella. He said every time there is a bit of a squeeze on, Radio
Australia's priorities go down the ladder. Is that a cultural thing
within the ABC management itself that is longstanding rather than
being perhaps contemporary?
Mr Barnett,I think so. I think distance is
a problem for a start. You are not there at head office and you do not
have access to Ultimo and Gore Hill like your colleagues in Sydney.
I found that in my capacity quite often things were not going the way
I liked so I would be making a point to Sydney and they would say, `Oh
God, he's whingeing again.' I was more of a problem rather than a potential.
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.
Mr Bird,Ever since Radio Australia joined
the ABC back in 1950, the relationship between the two has been fraught
with many difficulties. The ABC is based in Sydney and is fundamentally
preoccupied with domestic broadcasting, whereas Radio Australia is based
in Melbourne and broadcasts to the world. While it might appear that
the ABC and Radio Australia carry out similar operations, nothing could
be further from the truth. Only the BBC operates successfully both domestic
and international services. Many countries separate the two. This allows
the respective services to concentrate or focus on their mission and
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. 
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:
CHAIR,Can you indicate to the committee
what the morale of the staff is like at the moment in Radio Australia
Mr Westland,Absolutely rock bottom; it could
not get any lower. ATV was saying that it has gone through five inquiries
in the last four years. Radio Australia can date back to 1983 to Dix
inquiries which involved restructuring and the creation of a division
of Radio Australia. Every one of those inquiries has pointed towards
some form of restructuring or some form of downsizing or some form of
threat to Radio Australia. At this stage, as a representative of the
staff, I would be struggling to keep people at Radio Australia. People
are coming to me saying, `What should I do? Should I leave; should I
go?' People have no idea as to what direction to take their careers.
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
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.
A further example of this cavalier attitude to RA's potential
was revealed by the Managing Director, Mr Brian Johns, when he admitted
in evidence: "We have not examined the commercial possibilities
of Radio Australia". 
The ABC has clearly missed sales potential, and Government Senators
are somewhat incredulous that Australia would be about to pay for the
right to re-broadcast the service to selected international audiences.
 Committee Hansard, p. 168.
 Committee Hansard, p. 120.
 Committee Hansard, p. 4.
 Committee Hansard, pp 214-15.
 Committee Hansard, p. 168.
 Committee Hansard, pp 10-11.
 Committee Hansard, p. 17.
 Reported in Hodge, Radio Wars, Truth
Propaganda and the Struggle for Radio Australia, Cambridge UK: Cambridge
University Press, Chap.12, p. 257.
 Committee Hansard, pp 165-66.
 Committee Hansard, p. 137.
 Committee Hansard, p. 109.
 See discussion at Committee Hansard,