Pic source: ABC local radio
A senate inquiry will be held into how the Australian Broadcasting Corporation delivers services in regional Australia, Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, announced today.
Senator McKenzie this week introduced a private senator’s bill, Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Advocacy) Bill 2015, following concerns regarding recent regional programming changes and the broadcaster's focus being more commercially driven than on its obligation to public service, especially in the regions.
The bill was referred to the senate Environment and Communications Legislation committee for an inquiry early next year.
“This is a great opportunity to hear first-hand from regional communities what they expect of the public broadcaster and the services it delivers,” Senator McKenzie said.
Senator McKenzie said the Bill seeks to strengthen the mandate on the ABC to deliver a high level of broadcast service in the regions.
“The Bill requires amendments to the ABC’s Charter including the establishment of a Rural and Regional Advisory Council (to be residents in rural or regional Australia) to advise the ABC Board on rural and regional issues, and conduct a biennial survey of regional audiences regarding their satisfaction with services, with the results publicly available in the Corporation's annual report,” she said.
“The bill also requires the ABC Board to have at least two directors who live in regional areas and to consult regional employee stakeholders and the Rural and Regional Advisory Council in relation to implementing policy affecting regional areas. The details of these consultations must also be included in the annual report.”
Other amendments require the ABC to:
- broadcast programs that not only contribute to a sense of national identity or cultural diversity, but also a sense of geographic and cultural diversity;
- maintain an effective presence in regional communities and provide regular transmissions of local content across a variety of platforms;
- broadcast at least 5 radio bulletins that consist solely or primarily of regional or local news between 5am and 8pm, at regular intervals; and
- roster effectively in emergency broadcasting situations so that production ensures community safety.
The Bill does not attempt to dictate editorial policy or opinion, but seeks to ensure the mechanisms required for a high standard of rural and regional media coverage exist.
“Over the course of many years, we have witnessed a systemic de-resourcing of our regional services and our regional communities and the art of journalism itself is suffering as a result,” Senator McKenzie said.
“These include communities where the ABC is the only comprehensive provider of news and current affairs, weather forecasts and entertainment.
“We are told that this trend is a result of cuts in which they have picked on the regions first whilst Ultimo balloons to over one thousand staff.
“This is about priorities and the ABC Board needs to be focused on its role as a public broadcaster with a social obligation to the regions.”
Details on the senate inquiry are at: www.aph.gov.au/senate_ec