CONFLICTING / ANECDOTAL EVIDENCE
There was a worrying lack of empirical evidence presented to the Committee
regarding such matters as RA's audience size and reach, and its contribution
to trade and foreign policy objectives. This increased the difficulty
of basing definitive judgements on much of the evidence. The majority
report's heavy reliance on anecdotal evidence is unfortunate, as such
material is not suitable from which to draw firm, let alone responsible,
conclusions. Government Senators consider this unsatisfactory and unfortunate,
and believe that given the terms of reference, the onus of proof was
on the proponents of RA and ATV to more effectively establish their
The evidence which the Committee received relating to the contribution
of Radio Australia to Australia's foreign policy and trade interests was
largely anecdotal and often conflicting. Claims by some witnesses who
appeared before the Committee suggesting that any change in the structure
or scope of the delivery of Radio Australia's services would do lasting
damage to Australia's reputation and interests, were unsubstantiated assertions.
None of these witnesses supported these claims with solid evidence, and
most did not even refer to means by which Australia's interests are promoted
overseas other than international broadcasting, which is undoubtedly only
a small part of the picture. These assertions also ignored evidence of
other witnesses which suggested RA is necessarily effective in all respects.
In considering this issue, it is notable that RA received more than
4,000 responses (by letter, e-mail, fax and telephone) between 24 January
1997 and 17 April 1997 to Mr Mansfield's recommendations. The content
of these letters were categorised according to the reasons mentioned
for supporting RA. Government Senators noted that:
- of the letters received and categorised from the RA China Section,
only 18% stated that RA promotes trade, tourism and study connections,
and only 13% said that RA is a valuable ambassador for Australia.
- of the letters received and categorised from the Indonesia Section
of RA, only 11% said RA promoted trade, tourism and study connections,
and only 9% mention the ambassadorial role.
- of the letters received and categorised from the RA English language
Section, only 10% said that RA promoted trade, tourism and educational
- of the total of responses which have been processed and categorised,
there were only 15% that said RA is an ambassador for Australia, and
only 13% said that RA promoted trade, tourism and study involvements.
There is also a concern that there is a fundamental contradiction to
on the one hand argue that the ABC is an "independent" broadcaster
and to laud its editorial integrity and independence, and to on the
other hand argue that it is a vital element of Australia's foreign policy
The Government Senators strongly believe that the majority report fails
to take sufficient account of the various alternative means by which
Australia promotes itself in the region, particularly in the Asia region.
Any analysis which examines the value of the role of Radio Australia
without taking these other factors into consideration is of questionable
Loyalty to RA has certainly been demonstrated to some degree by the
mail and many written submissions in support of RA received by the Committee.
However, no substantive link has been established which shows that this
loyalty to RA by listeners translates into a broader loyalty to Australia,
increased trade, or furthers certain foreign policy objectives. The
only evidence of a link between these factors has been in the form of
a range of assertions. Additionally, there was some suggestion that
many of the letters written received by RA or sent to the Committee
were the result of an appeal by RA staff on air to their listeners.
In any event, RA's written submission to the Committee itself conceded
that the listeners who were most likely to respond to such appeals were
those favouring the service.
In addition, there is some doubt about the motivation behind some of
the statements which were made by figures in other countries, and led
in evidence before the Committee. These figures were largely the beneficiaries
of a free, comprehensive news service provided by the Australian taxpayer,
and it should come as no surprise that they argue in favour of RA's complete
continuation. As the Committee Chairman, Senator Forshaw, conceded at
one point in the hearings: "They may be genuine; they may not".
 This is a significant concession,
and Government Senators could not automatically accept these statements
as once again such evidence is a less than satisfactory basis upon which
to make conclusions. Much of the goodwill apparent towards RA, it seems,
is the result of it being a free service to its listeners.Estimates of
RA's audience sizes provided to the Committee varied widely. Dr Rodney
Tiffen in his independent review acknowledged the unreliability of surveys
conducted over the last couple of decades, with their wildly divergent
assessments.  This was a difficulty
which was raised not only by RA but also by others, including Errol Hodge,
who wrote in his submission that:
A problem for supporters of RA and ATV is that estimates of their
audience sizes vary widely. At the televised news conference after Mansfield
handed his report to Alston, the Minister said Radio Australia's audience
had dropped from 100 million several years ago to 'only' 20 million.
(The estimate of 100 million was never realistic, being based on a total
of more than half a million letters and cards to Radio in 1979-80 ...
and a rubbery estimate by the International Shortwave Listeners' club
that each letter represented 200 listeners). The actual audience for
Radio Australia probably falls somewhere between Mansfield's five million
and Alston's 20 million; precision is impossible because for example,
no audience research is possible in China, from which after the Cultural
listeners sent 183,000 letters and cards in a single year ... and where
shortwave listening is still widespread. 
Accurately estimating the size of RA's audience is difficult, if not
impossible. Although surveys of short-wave services have been conducted
in parts of the Asia Pacific region in conjunction with other international
broadcasters, such as the BBC World Service and Voice of America (VOA),
surveys cannot be conducted in some regional countries or in regions
of others. Even if it were possible to conduct comprehensive surveys
of the region in order to achieve a total estimate of audience for a
short-wave service, doing so would be prohibitively expensive. However,
while it would be useful to have an accurate estimate of total audience,
it is by no means a necessity. Other measures can be used to supplement
survey results in evaluating performance.The evidence concerning the
relative merits and future viability of short wave as a method of transmission
was not such as to allow Government Senators to form a conclusive view
of its overall appropriateness or otherwise. However, it is worth noting
that RA's Thai shortwave service was discontinued some years ago when
short wave radio use in that country declined significantly. It seems
reasonable to conclude that short wave is a more suitable method of
transmission in the Pacific than Asia region, given the nature and pace
of technological developments in the areas.
 Committee Hansard, p. 345.
 RA submission, p. 4.
 Committee Hansard, p. 345.
 Radio Australia Review 1994/95,
 Dr Errol Hodge, Senior Lecturer in Journalism
- QUT, submission No.361, p. 3.