Government support needed to bring back local TV

SCA Broken Hill

When Southern Cross Austereo’s (SCA) Spencer Gulf Nightly News TV service – which included Broken Hill as well as Port Augusta, Port Lincoln, Port Pirie, and Whyalla – was suddenly axed, airing its final news bulletin on April 12 last year, it took the community by surprise.

Presented weeknights from Hobart – featuring stories from journalists based in the locations and airing on 7TWO for regional audiences – SCA said at the time, “the decision was made after detailed evaluation of the commercial and economic cost and return”.

After the program was shuttered, Broken Hill City Council wrote to Federal Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, in May and this month received a response from her Chief of Staff.

Mayor Tom Kennedy brought the reply to Council.

“What the response did acknowledge is that there is [sic] communities and there is [sic] requirements in licences when it comes to the eastern part of the country, which is compulsory to have regional content when delivering the news,” he said.

“Where we are, there is no licence that requires it. But what they [Federal Minister for Communications office] did say is that they still are interested in ensuring regional areas do have access to local input and they were talking about programs that provide money to private organisations to supply that.

“So really, what it would end up being is a subsidised news service by the government. I would like to see them do a similar thing that they’ve done with the eastern states, even if that includes funding that it be part of a compulsory licence.”

The response from Minister Rowland’s Chief of Staff said, “the government recognises the challenges faced by the Australian media sector in continuing to produce Australian content and deliver local news, particularly in regional areas”, while also noting the critical nature of local news to communities across the country, including the Spencer Gulf.

“Given the Spencer Gulf licence area is a regional non-aggregated licence area, there are currently no obligations for SCA. The local content obligations for commercial television services differ based on the market a regional licensee serves, with licensees in the eastern markets subject to obligations for the provision of ‘material of local significance’, for a number of years, while other regional licensees will only be subject to obligations under certain circumstances”, the response read.

The statement also pointed to the federal government already taking a number of steps to support the sustainability of regional broadcasting across Australia, including providing a rebate of the Commercial Broadcasting Tax for an additional four years and that the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) safety net service is funded.

Funding is being provided in 2023/24 on work to assess the state of broadcasting transmission and reception equipment in remote and regional Australia, and the government is engaging with the Future of Broadcasting Workshop Group to look at ways of supporting regional and remote broadcasters.

The federal government has also committed to developing a News Media Assistance Program (News MAP) to secure the evidence base needed to inform longer term news media policy interventions and to develop measures to support public interest journalism and media diversity in Australia.

Support the Barrier Truth!

We are a small, independently owned newspaper. If you got something from this article, giving something back helps us to continue publishing the truth from the Broken Hill region. Every little bit counts.

More Articles