Senator for Victoria

Opinion

25
*This letter was posted on this website with the permission of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA).* 

25 November 2014

James Spigelman AC QC
Chairman (ABC Board)
ABC Ultimo Centre
GPO Box 9994
SYDNEY NSW 2001

Dear Mr Spigelman,

ABC's Bush Telegraph Program

I write in relation to the recently announced cuts to the ABC budget, in particular the
axing of the Bush Telegraph. AFPA is greatly concerned that the loss of Bush Telegraph
breaks an important link between regional and metropolitan Australia, which enables
regional based industries such as ours to have our issues heard and understood by the
broader community.

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) is the peak national body for
Australia’s forest, wood and paper products industry. We represent the industry’s
interests to governments, the general public and other stakeholders on matters relating
to the sustainable development and use of Australia’s forest, wood and paper products.

A large proportion of our industries are based in regional areas and form an important
part of the fabric of rural Australia.

We would like to add our voice to that of the farmers, members of Parliament and other
rural agribusiness stakeholders, who have expressed alarm at the demise of the Bush
Telegraph.
The Bush Telegraph is a key plank in rural news services exploring agribusiness, social
and environmental issues in rural and remote Australia.

AFPA agrees with recent comments by the Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce,
that we need ‘assurance that rural and regional news services won't suffer as a result of
the ABC cuts’. It would seem that the Minister’s statement was not considered in this
decision.

AFPA understands from a recent ABC policy announcement, ‘Our ABC, Our Future’,
that ‘a new Regional Division has been proposed, to deliver a co-ordinated and focussed
approach to rural and regional content for audiences across the nation. It will bring
together regional radio and news staff and be led by a manager living outside Sydney or
Melbourne.’ Further, the ABC’s Charter clearly states that its role is to ‘provide within
Australia innovative and comprehensive broadcasting services of a high standard’.

The proposed decision to end production of the national Bush Telegraph program
would appear both incongruous with the new ‘Regional Division’ initiative and failing
to apply the ‘comprehensive broadcasting services’ specified in the Charter, by abandoning
the bush and further concentrating its services and content on city based issues.

The forestry and forest product industries directly employ more than 70 000 Australians
and indirectly employ a further 120,000, largely based in regional Australia. In addition,
there are millions of Australians working in broader farming and agribusiness sectors in
regional Australia. These people need to maintain their uniquely rural voice and have
access to national platform, like the Bush Telegraph, to promote regional issues.

We strongly urge the ABC to reconsider the decision to end the Bush Telegraph and
allow these rural industry stories to be told. Please note that we plan to share the contents of this letter with like-minded stakeholders on this key issue.

If you would like any further information or would like to discuss this issue further
please contact myself or my Business Manager, Ms Jo Angel on (02) 6285 3833.

Yours sincerely
Ross Hampton
Chief Executive Officer
CC: ABC Managing Director, Mr Mark Scott AO
Minister for Communications, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP
Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Barnaby Joyce MP

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