In ‘Nationals accused of ‘Stalinist’ approach over local content rules’ (AFR,
January 18), a nameless television executive asked what the Nationals were
We smoke regional-centric bias like it’s free, legal and our job.
I am disappointed when television executives cannot recognise rural and regional
advocacy when presented to them.
Are we on drugs because we’re earnestly advocating for quality regional journalism and
We know that our commercial regional media providers have been facing an existential
crisis and that current legal frameworks and media models are not economically
viable. The downward trend has shown a contraction in local content, physical
presence as well as reduced skills, training and quality of research.
This harks back to the decision by Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating who threatened
the existence of rural and regional television services when he introduced
aggregation which endangered local television newsrooms overnight.
Most notable however, is the reduction in the understanding of local communities by
regional media – where stories are told by outsiders without the authenticity
of an embedded voice.
Regional Australians telling regional Australian stories makes sense and reflects their
concerns, narratives, interests and visions for the future.
Prime 7 boss, Ian Audesley echoed The Nationals in laying responsibility on the ABC to
better facilitate services in regional Australia. An inquiry into my private senator’s bill (Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Advocacy) Bill 2015) commenced this summer and the Bill addresses the very question of what the ABC’s mandate in regional Australia should be.
As a public broadcaster, the ABC should be going into territory that does not solely
rely on ratings and provides quality regional services in an environment that
is commercially challenged.
We need regional Australians to be exposed to the forensic dialogue taken for granted
by metropolitan audiences, whose talkback hosts have research and production
teams that allow them to produce and conduct well-run discussions.
The only ‘Stalinist’ hint in this whole debate is the heavy concentration of media
collateral and attention in our capital cities to the detriment of civic
enlightenment in our regions.
The digital age should be expanding horizons and narrative choice, not creating
local media blackspots.
Bridget McKenzie is the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and
Employment, Chair of the Coalition Backbench Policy Committee for Education and
is the Nationals Senator for Victoria.