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assignment was made of Tuesday and Thursday to the House of Representatives and Wednesday and Friday to the Senate (it is rare for either House to sit on a Friday), the Committee has met at irregular intervals when some change was required. From time to time, the Committee issues notifications of the broadcasting arrangements for a particular week or period which are numbered serially and signed by the Clerk to the Committee. Extent of Broadcasting
As stated in the General Principles and Standing Determinations the proceedings are broadcast while either House is sitting, from the commencement of proceedings until the adjournment is moved or 11:30 p.m. whichever is the earlier.
The 11:30 p.m. refers to Eastern Standard Time and because of the time differential may be read as 11 p.m. in South Australia and 9:30 p.m. in respect to Western Australia. The recent introduction of Daylight Saving Time in Tasmania has caused the Committee to determine that the broadcast shall cease in that State when the adjournment is moved or 11:30 p.m. Daylight Saving Time (10:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time), whichever is the earlier.
Also the Committee has power, under the Act, to determine the conditions under which a re-broadcast may be made of any portion of the proceedings of either House and no re-broadcast may be made otherwise than in accordance with the conditions so determined. As any re-broadcast is ordinarily of relatively short duration, the Committee is conscious that a re-broadcast of Parliamentary debates would generally involve a partisan or partial presentation. Accordingly, re-broadcasting is strictly curbed, except when between 7:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. (during the dinner adjournment) a recording of Question Time is broadcast. The Question Time to be broadcast is, in general, that of the House not broadcast during the day and its duration is approximately 42 minutes. When the re-broadcast is from the House of Representatives only questions without notice are included but in the case of the Senate both questions without notice and on notice are re-broadcast. The principles governing the re-broadcast of Question Time require that all business not being questions and answers as defined in the appropriate General Principle shall be excluded. It is the practice to delete points of order, questions ruled out of order, unanswered questions, etc., from the record. These deletions are made in a most efficient manner and the result is such that a misleading impression could be conveyed to the listener that the record is a full and complete version of the particular portion of the proceedings concerned. It is felt by the Committee that this would be improper and therefore an appropriate announcement must preceed the re-broadcast if it is edited or altered in any way.
The only other re-broadcast permitted by the Committee is that of the Governor-General's Speech at the opening of each Session of the Parliament. Technical Arrangements
There is no special technical problem associated with the broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings because one of the existing Australian Broadcasting Commission radio networks is used for this purpose, the programme being fed into the network at Canberra. However it is established policy that the Parliament shall not be broadcast in areas where there is no alternative national station and therefore many country or regional areas would not receive the Parliamentary broadcast except over the short-wave station which has been prescribed (but see Standing Determination No. 8). As the bulk of Australia's population is in the capital cities it has been estimated that an adequate broadcast of Parliament over the nine transmitters can be received by about 90 percent of the population.
Although there is no problem in transmitting broadcasts, there is a problem in picking up the proceedings so that they will be easily intelligible to listeners when transmitted. Both Chambers are large in size and microphones must be placed so that no Member is too far away from one for his speech to be picked up clearly. Conversely, it is essential for control purposes that the number of microphones be kept to a minimum and in the House of Representatives there are eighteen on the back benches, four on the Table and one each for the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees. Small, unobtrusive, re-directional microphones are used and they have been specially treated and mounted in shock mounts to reduce pick-up of acoustical shock.
A glass-fronted sound-proof control booth slightly raised from floor level for use by an operator and announcer has been constructed in each Chamber at the end facing the Presiding Officer. The occupants have an unobstructed view of the whole Chamber. Within the booth the microphone switches are located on a panel shaped exactly to the floor plan of the Chamber with each switch located to correspond with the location of its microphone. This panel not only facilitates the selection of the appropriate switch to the desired microphone, but any errors of judgment in doubtful cases result in near misses--that is, the microphone selected will still be in the area of the Member speaking and will give reasonably intelligible speech until the proper microphone is selected. Normally the operator "livens" only the microphone in front of the Chair and that nearest the Member speaking but additional microphones are brought in to cover relevant interjections. Announcements From Control Booth
The few minutes before the House meets or resumes after a meal adjournment is spent by the announcer in giving the programme of business for the day or an objective summary of proceedings broadcast earlier in the day. As expressed in the Standing Determinations each Member rising is announced by his name, parliamentary office or portfolio, electorate or State, and the political party to which he belongs. The subject of new business is also announced and, as with the name of the Member speaking, is repeated at regular intervals throughout the debate. An announcer is forbidden to include his own views or forecasts and may not comment on absences. Legal Aspects
Legal problems that emerge from the broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings are of some interest.
In 1945 the Solicitor-General advised that if the whole of the proceedings, not small selected portions, were broadcast, a qualified privilege would apply. This qualified privilege could only be upset by proof of malice, and it would be difficult to establish malice if the whole of the proceedings were broadcast. As Parliament had provided for the absolute protection of Hansard reports, he thought it would be wise to introduce legislation to provide for absolute privilege to broadcasts of the proceedings.
It is provided in the Act that:
"No action or proceeding, civil or criminal, shall lie against any person for broadcasting or re-broadcasting any portion of the proceedings of either House of the Parliament.”
This protection, of course, applies only to persons authorised to broadcast or re-broadcast.
The privilege of freedom of speech is declared in the 9th Article of the Bill of Rights, 1688, to be:
“That the freedom of speech, and debate or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament."
Section 49 of the Constitution provides that the powers, privileges and immunities of the Senate and House of Representatives shall be those of the House of Commons until otherwise declared and it is the view of the Attorney-General's Department that the privilege of freedom of speech enjoyed by Members extends to them in regard to speeches made in the House which may be broadcast. Effect of Broadcasting on Parliament
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting expressed the opinion that "the result would be to raise the standard of debates, enhance the prestige of Parliament, and contribute to a better-informed judgment throughout the community on matters affecting the common good and the public interest, nationally and internationally."
The broadcast has had no effect on the formal procedures of Parliament although Senators voluntarily restrict their speeches to a maximum of 30 minutes while their proceedings are being broadcast.
However, it has had some effect on the management of debates and the way Members approach them. The programme of business is often arranged so that important matters are considered on the days that each House is on the air and Party leaders make use of the peak listening periods from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. to introduce the more important legislation and to make their major policy statements. Thus the Budget, which, before broadcasting, was introduced in the afternoon, is now invariably introduced at 8 p.m. Likewise the Leader of the Opposition will reply a week later at the same time and should the Prime Minister enter the debate the programme will be managed to enable him to speak at 8 p.m. This introduces an element of inflexibility and perhaps a lack of continuity into the proceedings which would not exist to the same degree if there was no broadcast. It tends to make the management of the House more difficult and may increase the period in which it is merely marking time. Despite the fact that what are generally considered to be the best broadcasting times are frequently monopolised by Party leaders there is still a considerable period available for private Members and there is no doubt that it is highly prized. There is considerable competition to speak on broadcasting days and the Whips of all Parties have found it necessary in keeping their records to list speeches made when the House is being broadcast separately from those made when there is no broadcast in order to ensure that all Members are treated equitably. It is of interest that many private Members from the eastern States seek to speak between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. when it is understood that a large number of motorists have their car radios tuned to the Parliamentary broadcast.
5 Eighth Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting relating to the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Debates. Parllamentary Paper No. 31 of 1945-46.
There is little doubt that speeches have been affected in a number of ways. They tend to be better prepared but because some of them are directed to the invisible radio audience rather than to the House itself, they may tend to be a series of independent statements on the subject of the debate rather than a contribution to the course of the debate. Furthermore, there is a tendency for Members of the House of Representatives to take the full time allotted them under the standing orders.
Broadcasting has had an important impact on the production of Hansard which has resulted in the report now being more complete and a less polished literary effort than before. A Member can have no second thoughts and wrong information has to be corrected by personal explanation. Lighthearted or irreverent references to persons or institutions may no longer be omitted and angry exchanges which were once treated as asides are now included, as are repetitions in a Member's speech. Parliament and the Public
Listeners' reactions vary greatly in accordance with their general and political outlook, and in many cases, where the Parliament has been regarded as a mysterious body which meets with awful solemnity and whose Members never fall below sublime perfection in their thoughts, their actions and their words, there is undoubtedly profound disillusionment. If the broadcast has done nothing more than destroy this entirely false impression and show that Parliament is, as it should be, a cross-section of the Australian people, it has been worth while.
Successive Gallup polls have shown a small minority in favour of discontinuing broadcasting and generally the reason given is that the proceedings are “disgraceful" and that Members behave like a "pack of school boys" or "hooligans". No doubt in the minds of these people Parliament has declined in prestige.
It should be remembered however that Canberra is remote from the main centres of population and although some 600,000 tourists visit the National Capital each year only a small percentage of the population have the opportunity of being present at debates. Thus for most their image of Parliament prior to broadcasting was created almost exclusively by the press. Although some Australian newspapers cover debates fairly fully, the majority do not. Their interest in Parliament has been in the sensational and dramatic, precisely the things found so disgraceful by those questioned in the Gallup poll. Broadcasting has provided the public with an alternative picture and the public has been able to discover that such incidents are rare, and that, for the most part, the proceedings in Parliament are orderly, and participated in seriously and conscientiously by the majority of its Members. It is felt that broadcasting has loosened the grip of the press on the formation of public opinion in Australia but there is no evidence that it has led to a greater sense of responsibility on the part of the newspapers.
An accurate survey of the number of listeners to Parliament and the time spent in listening is an impossible task but one survey undertaken in 1967 by commercial interests, in the four largest State capitals, indicated that, during the evening, of the total radio sets in use, up to 8 percent are tuned to the Parliamentary broadcast at any one time. In terms of numbers, it showed that, in the four cities, an average of 18,200 radio sets are tuned to the Parliamentary broadcast on a Tuesday night. Another survey revealed that, in Sydney and Melbourne, the cumulative number of persons who listen to Parliament is 88,000 in the afternoon and 53,000 in the evening.
Shortly after Parliamentary broadcasting was introduced certain persons outside Parliament claimed they had been attacked during the course of a debate which had been broadcast and sought the right of reply through a governmentcontrolled radio channel. Considerable press publicity was given to the matter which was also the subject of questions in Parliament. The proposal was briefly considered by the Committee which ascertained that no situation had arisen in New Zealand which had made the matter an issue, and that no special provision had been made for means of reply by persons alleging that they had been attacked in Parliament. No action was taken by the Committee and the question has not been raised again. Historic Records
In 1960, an amendment to the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946 was passed by the Parliament which places on the Australian Broadcasting Commission an obligation to retain, when so directed, a record of notable occurrences in the proceedings of Parliament. Having regard to timing difficulties, the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been given the initiative of choosing which Parliamentary occasion to record, although it will make an appropriate recording when directed to do so. The directions in this regard and the oversight of the procedure involved is in the hands of the Committee. The Committee makes the decisions as to those items which will be put into safe keeping and also makes the appropriate safekeeping arrangements.
A recording of a typical day's proceedings in both the Senate and the House of Representatives has been lodged with the British Institute of Recorded Sound and various archival authorities in Australia. Conclusion
In a letter to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who was then Leader of the Opposition, in supporting the proposal wrote:
I think it is desirable that the public should have the fullest access to Parliamentary discussions. There are still some newspapers which give a very extensive report of Parliamentary debates, but there are others which give little account of what is actually said in Parliament. The case for broadcasting is therefore a strong one. It is desirable that the electors should be in a position to know what were the actual words spoken by a Member of Parliament. It is equally important that they should be in a position, by actually hearing, to assess the personality and significance of the speaker. In one sense, the ideal Parliament would be one in which all debates were carried on in the presence of all the people."
It is this concept of a Parliament which provides the over-riding justification for the broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings and it is submitted that those countries like Australia which have introduced broadcasts have come closer to that ideal by its introduction.
* Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1960. Act No. 35 of 1960. 12752/67.