Tag Archives: Radio Australia

Outback workers fight closure of ABC’s shortwave service

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Phil Brennan and London Shortwave for sharing the following story from The Guardian (my comments follow):

‘It’s essential’: outback workers fight ABC decision to ditch shortwave radio

For some living and working in Australia’s outback, shortwave radio is the only way they can listen to the ABC – and their main daily contact with the rest of the world. But the ABC will end the service in two weeks

“People that live out in contracting camps or mustering stock camps or outstations, and even a lot of the people who live in the bush on cattle stations, spend probably 100% of their waking hours out on the land and have very minimal contact with other human beings,” says Tracey Hayes, the chief executive of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association.

“You can imagine how isolating that would be without having access to the outside world via radio during the day while you’re out in the workplace. But I don’t think they took that into consideration.”

Hayes is referring to a recent announcement by the ABC that, at the end of January, it would terminate its shortwave radio service, which broadcasts to the NT, Papua New Guinea and some parts of the Pacific region.

[…]For some people living and working in the outback, shortwave is the only way they can listen to the ABC.

AM and FM bands don’t have the geographic reach across the sparsely populated territory and online streaming and Vast satellite radio is largely only available at home, close to the required infrastructure.

But as essential as the service’s supporters say it is, they are few in number. And so the ABC decided in early December it would reinvest the $1.2m into bringing digital radio to Darwin and Hobart.

Hayes has spent her life on cattle stations. She suggests the ABC decision-makers on the east coast have little understanding of the isolation of outback living and how big a role the ABC can play in people’s mental and emotional wellbeing.

“It’s essential, to keep feeling mentally stimulated and feeling like you’re in touch with the world and the rest of the community, to listen to our national broadcaster,” she says, and accuses the ABC of “loftiness” in dismissing their reliance on shortwave.

Michael Mason, the ABC’s director of radio, said in December the broadcaster would service the “limited audience” of shortwave radio “through modern technology” instead.

Hayes says that technology is of little help to people who aren’t in an office or home, and she questions the fairness of the ABC sacrificing their only remote mobile service in order to give city-dwellers yet another way of tuning in.

“When I live in Darwin I enjoy listening to the radio via the broadcast app, I can hear it in my car, we don’t really need another one,” she says.

“I’d certainly like to see the provision of resources go to people to people who are already disadvantaged.”

[…]The ABC has largely dismissed the backlash, with the managing director, Michelle Guthrie, claiming just a handful of complaints had been made and many of them were from ham radio enthusiasts.

[…]ABC local radio is the official national emergency broadcaster and all Australians are instructed to tune in during events such as bushfires, floods and cyclones. Ranger services told the ABC’s Country Hour they relied on it during long remote trips, rather than secondhand reports over HF radio.

But the ABC has sought to reassure people emergency alerts and weather updates can still be heard, via the Bureau of Meteorology and the rural flying doctors service’s HF broadcasts. It’s also urged people to tune into VHF radio, primarily used by mariners.

“It’s not just about picking up the weather, it’s about picking up a lot more than that,” says Jay Mohr-Bell, a cattle station manager 100km southwest of Katherine.

“They’re discounting the value of everything else that’s being picked up – even just a bit of local news. You listen to a show like the Country Hour and it’s info you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

Mohr-Bell claims he and others in the Katherine region approached the ABC a few years ago about moving local radio to the AM band so they could pick it up more often. He says the ABC refused at the time, specifically citing the shortwave service as a reason it was unnecessary.

“It just goes to show it’s a decision that was made and they don’t care about the consequences and it’s done and dusted,” he says.

[…]“You should be left in no doubt that the ABC has failed to adequately or properly assess the needs of Territorians who see shortwave as their only option.”

Mohr notes there are lower level ABC staff, including rural reporters, who understand the importance of the service, but there’s nothing they can do. It’s the final nail in the coffin for him.

“Once they shut this down for us out here, we’ve got no relevance with the ABC. We won’t be continuing to support them at all.”

The ABC did not respond to questions.

Click here to read the full story on The Guardian.

The closure of the Northern Territory shortwave service reminds me very much of Radio Canada International’s closure in 2012. With the number of other quality international broadcasters on shortwave (The BBC, DW, Radio Australia, RFI, Radio Japan, etc.) and with the cuts to RCI’s programming from previous years, in comparison RCI wasn’t a big a player on the international scene.

However, the CBC North Quebec Service–which was relayed from the RCI Sackville site on 9,625 kHz shortwave–covered a vast broadcast footprint into the northern reaches of Canada. The North Quebec relay could be heard in remote First Nations communities scattered across Labrador, Quebec, Nunavut, Iqaluit, and even into the Northwest Territories. Many of these communities are only accessible by air or sea. The CBC replaced the service with FM relays, but of course the reach of an FM site in no way compares to that of a shortwave service.

Fortunately, some remote communities in Labrador and possibly further west can still receive the CKZN shortwave relay from St. John’s Newfoundland. At 1,000 watts of power, however, it has a less reliable reach than the North Quebec Service did for so many decades.

It’s easy to turn a blind eye to communities with which you simply have no connection. I would never fault a commercial broadcaster from pulling the plug when they have no viable audience to cover the costs of sponsoring their content.

When you have a public broadcaster like the ABC–which is funded in part by taxpayers from remote, rural communities–I believe the needs of the full audience must be taken into consideration and must be taken…well…seriously.

The ABC should revisit their published Diversity and Inclusion statement which specifically points out providing quality, diverse content in audience-accessible forms.

1.2 million dollars–while a lot of money to most of us–is a drop in the bucket when compared with other items in the Australian budget.

In reality? It sounds like the ABC isn’t even prepared to acknowledge the needs of their rural audiences, let alone address them.

With loss of Northern Territory service, ABC recommends AM/FM and a satellite phone

Photo: Lisa Herbert via Twitter

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who shares this tweet from Northern Territory resident, Lisa Herbert.

Read about the cuts to the ABC NT service and Radio Australia by clicking here.

ABC Friends: “Plea For Urgent Ministerial Action” to retain NT service

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Brennan, who shares the following press release from ABC Friends.

ABC Friends represents the community’s interest in independent national public broadcasting:

MEDIA RELEASE
5/1/2017

NEW THREAT TO LIVES IN OUTBACK
PLEA FOR URGENT MINISTERIAL ACTION

An urgent call for ministerial action to protect short wave services in Northern and Central Australia has been made by ABC Friends National.

“It is the responsibility of both the Minister for Communications Senator Fifield and the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to respond to this very real need with urgency,’” said ABC Friends National President Margaret Reynolds today.

ABC Friends National sent a letter in December to Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, urging him to intervene so as to guarantee the ABC had sufficient funding to maintain the short wave service – which is so essential in rural and remote areas.

“Furthermore a number of Pacific Island states also rely on this service especially in the current cyclone season,” Margaret Reynolds said, “Pacific leaders have expressed concern about a loss of this service.”

”It is unacceptable to simply blame the ABC when government funding has been reduced so severely in recent years.”

“The ABC cannot provide adequate communication services for all Australians in isolated regions as well as support our Pacific neighbours if it is constantly facing funding cutbacks.”

“The Australian Government must accept that, ultimately, short wave services can provide early warning and be an important preventative disaster measure,” she said.

Further Information:

Margaret Reynolds
National President ABC Friends

ABC will stand by decision to axe NT shortwave service

(Source: ABC News via Trevor R)

The ABC has defended the axing of its Northern Territory’s long-distance radio service, despite calls from federal representatives to reverse the decision.

This month the broadcaster announced its HF shortwave radio transmitters at Katherine, Tennant Creek and Roe Creek (Alice Springs) would be switched off on January 31, ceasing ABC Radio coverage across the long distance radio transmission platform.

The decision has attracted criticism from cattle station owners, Indigenous ranger groups and fishermen, who argue it was done without community consultation and would deprive people in remote areas of vital emergency warnings.

On Monday Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Lingiari MP Warren Snowdon met with ABC management in a bid to have the decision reversed.

“The result of that meeting is that they still stand by that decision. We did find the meeting quite disappointing really,” Senator McCarthy told 105.7 ABC Darwin on Monday.

“There really hasn’t been any decency in terms of respect and consideration for the usage of shortwave, which has been a vital service and is a vital service across the Northern Territory.

Cutting NT shortwave service saves $1.2m

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”.

However, he conceded a formal survey had not been done about how many people would be impacted.[…]

It costs $1.2 million to run the shortwave service, which Mr Mannix said would now be reinvested in the ABC’s expansion of its digital radio services in Darwin and Hobart.

ABC unlikely to reinvest in expanded AM service

Listeners to 105.7 ABC Darwin said Mr Mannix underestimated the remote realities of the Territory, a place six times the size of Britain with a population of 240,000.

“There’s about 150 boats in the cyclone season across the Top End of Australia. Every one of those is listening to shortwave,” a North East Arnhem-based fisherman said.

“The local radio is much more comprehensive than what BOM does.”

Mark Crocombe from the Thamarrurr Rangers in Wadeye has previously said his group’s VAST service did not work during cloudy weather, especially during monsoons and cyclones.

He said he had previously found out about cyclone warnings through the ABC shortwave radio, without which he would have had no notice.

On Tuesday Mr Crocombe added that apart from his ongoing emergency weather concerns, the decision would also further isolate people working remotely out bush.

“We’ve used shortwave to listen to the Olympic Games, the AFL grand final, rugby union World Cup. We’ve listened to it all on shortwave.”[…]

Click here to read full article at ABC News.

This is a reasonably in-depth article and I would encourage you to read it in its entirety at the ABC News website.

PINA calls for ABC to review closure of shortwave service

(Source: Pasifik via SWLing Post contributor Trevor R)

[The] Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) is concerned with the decision of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) to shut down its Shortwave Radio Services to the Pacific by the end of January next year.

PINA joins the growing voices opposed to the ABC’s plan to close this ‘valuable and vital source of information’ to people and communities in the Pacific that have relied on Radio Australia for almost eight decades.

More so now with most Pacific Island Countries in the middle of their cyclone season, said PINA President Moses Stevens, who laments the impact of the service will have on the peoples in the Pacific who rely on the service after it is closed in January.

“PINA is concerned because it would mean the end of an era in regional broadcasting and a service that Pacific people have been reliant on for news, information and entertainment for over many years to date,” he said.

“Given the geographical landscape of the Pacific region, radio is still the most effective and efficient means of communication and source for information.

“The fact that most islands in the region are under resourced with regards to sustaining their broadcast stations, most of our people rely on Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand to acquire news and information, including cyclone warnings.”

Mr Stevens said for almost 80 years, Radio Australia’s Shortwave Service has been the lifeline for many rural communities in the Pacific who rely on it for vital emergency service information.

Continue reading the full article on the Pasifik news site….