News: ABC abandons remote Territorians

Barkly Regional Council President Barb Shaw has accused the ABC of turning its back on vital service provision in the region.

Posted: Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Barkly Regional Council President Barb Shaw has accused the ABC of turning its back on vital service provision in the region.

The ABC announced late last year that it is turning off its HF shortwave radio transmitters at Katherine, Tennant Creek and Roe Creek (Alice Springs) on January 31.

The announcement means ABC Radio coverage across the long distance radio transmission platform will end on that day.

President Shaw said the decision by the ABC could only be seen as a short-sighted and ill informed and it was disappointing that once again, people in remote regions of the Territory were losing out to well serviced listeners in Darwin.

“The ABC has said it will be taking its government funding for remote areas and spending it in Darwin and Hobart instead,” President Shaw said.

“Once again, it has been done without consultation and will deprive people in remote areas of vital emergency warnings.

“Once again, an essential service provider 100 per cent funded by Australian tax payers is failing in its charter to provide essential services to people in the Barkly.

“It is very pleasing that our Federal Labor representatives Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Lingiari MP Warren Snowdon met with ABC management in a bid to have the decision reversed.

“However, the silence from our elected Territory representatives in regional areas whose constituents will be the ones hurt by this is extremely disappointing.

“It is equally disappointing that the Territory Labor Government has failed to take immediate action to support the remote constituents who voted them into office only a few short months ago.”

On Tuesday ABC spokesman Ian Mannix told 105.7 ABC Darwin the decision to axe shortwave services "will only affect a very, very small amount of people".

Mr Mannix said the majority of people affected by the loss of ABC shortwave radio, such as those living in remote Indigenous communities and on homesteads, would be able to access "the full amount of ABC services" through satellite links.

"That's free and they can pay about $600 for a satellite dish," he said.

President Shaw said Mr Mannix’s comments were disappointing because they indicated the decision makers at the national broadcaster obviously had no idea about the challenges of living and working remotely in the Northern Territory.

“Mr Mannix said anybody travelling or working in remote parts of the Territory should not just be "heading out into the bush" and basing all their movements on ABC Local Radio weather updates,” President Shaw said.

“Either Mr Mannix doesn’t know that since the weather bureau axed its radar at Tennant Creek, the ABC is the only source of essential information across most of our region or he simply doesn’t care.

“It’s not just about weather advice – residents of remote areas have used shortwave to listen to the Olympic Games, the AFL grand final, rugby union World Cup and the cricket.”

President Shaw joined the call from NT Cattlemen's Association president Tom Stockwell for the ABC to compensate shortwave listeners with an expanded AM radio service in the Territory, so that people travelling could more easily stay updated with weather and local news.

“Apart from 30km either side of Tennant Creek and in Elliott township itself, travellers on the Stuart Highway have no radio services from the cattle grid at Ti Tree to just north of Warloch Ponds near Mataranka,” President Shaw said.