Australian Gov’t reviewing media services (including loss of shortwave) in the Asia-Pacific

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, for sharing the following Have Your Say review of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia Pacific:

Review of Australian Broadcasting Services in the Asia Pacific – Terms of Reference

The Government is undertaking a review of Australian media services in the Asia Pacific, including the role of shortwave radio. The review is being conducted jointly by the Department of Communications and the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Purpose

The objective of the review is to assess the reach of Australia’s media in the Asia Pacific region, including examining whether shortwave radio technology should be used.

Scope

The review will analyse the:

  • coverage and access of existing Australian media services in the Asia Pacific region; and
  • use and value of Australian shortwave technology in the Asia Pacific region.The review will cover:
  • all media distribution platforms (i.e. television, radio and online);
  • commercial, community and publicly funded services; and
  • different types of technologies such as analogue, digital and satellite radio and television services and online services.

Have your say

Interested stakeholders in Australia and overseas are encouraged to contribute to this review. Submissions on any aspect of the review should be uploaded to the review website by 3 August 2018.

Timeframe

The review is expected to report to the Government in 2018.

Background

In September 2017 the Government agreed to conduct a review of Asia Pacific Broadcasting Services as follows:

“The Department of Communications and the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will conduct a review into the reach of Australian broadcasting services in the Asia Pacific region, including examining whether shortwave radio technology should be used. The review will include public consultation and the report of the review will be made public.”


Consultation Period:
June 04, 2018 09:00 AEST to August 03, 2018 17:00 AEST

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation ceased shortwave broadcasting in the Asia-Pacific region in January 2017 ahead of a transition to FM transmission.

The review is assessing the reach of Australia’s media in the Asia-Pacific region, including examining whether shortwave radio technology should be used.

All media distribution platforms – television, radio and online – are being examined including commercial, community and publicly funded services.

The review is also looking at different types of technologies such as analogue, digital and satellite radio and television services and online services.

Click here to view this information and participate via the Have Your Say website.

11 thoughts on “Australian Gov’t reviewing media services (including loss of shortwave) in the Asia-Pacific

  1. Elvis Newton

    Maybe this was Oz’s plan all along. Shut down SW, sell off the equipment and nice site to insiders for development and then, a few years later decide a brand new facility in some new location is needed. All of this at much more than they received for selling the old site and equipment, etc. In addition to the $$ for the study they are now commissioning, a new site needs environmental studies, local approvals, new equipment and provides work for the Oz equivalent of our FCC. $$$$ all around.

    This is like the traffic light situation in my home town. They will remove a light at a cross street on main road giving the excuse that is holds down traffic flow. Then a few years later say it really is needed and reinstall it, of course at higher cost, etc. Our conclusion is that is it just to make jobs for city contractors. Some to remove the light the first time, and then a few years later to reinstall something new and more expensive (needs of course new road sensors, tie in to the computer controlling traffic flow, etc)

    Reply
    1. RonF

      As an Australian, I can tell you this: the Government is not that smart, and the ABC is not that duplicitous.

      I suspect, and this looks like, the Government having to do *something* after the hammering it got from the Senate Estimates & subsequent widespread calls for enquiries. Expect DCA and DFAT – who both came out against the cutting of domestic & international shortwave broadcasts – to try and put pressure back up on the Government to re-establish something, if only for rural/remote audiences. I wouldn’t expect anything to come from it, but I would expect it to be embarassing.

      Which is, of course, why it’s happening now – an election is coming up soon and there’s a fair chance the incumbent government will lose. And regardless of whether they do or not, by the time the inquiry actually happens and the embarassing stuff starts to hit the fan, there will be a new parliament and any bad outcomes can be blamed on the decisions of the previous one (even if it’s held by the same party…).

      (For USonians & others: the Australian Government still pretty much runs on the Westminster ‘independent/impartial bureaucracy’ model. Department heads – regardless of who put them in the jobs – tend to be suddenly become surprisingly independent, to the annoyance of the responsible ministers. It’s not at all like, say, Pai at the FCC or Pruitt at the EPA…)

      Reply
  2. Mark Fahey

    As a fellow Australian, I agree with much of RonF’s analysis.
    One thing for sure, Radio Australia won’t be back on shortwave.

    Warning – a long rant below! 🙂 All written in good spirit!

    Before you read on – don’t get me wrong, I love shortwave as a hobby, but its kind of like being interested in LPs or collecting music on cassette, its a great hobby, but the days of large-scale investment by a country (like Australia) in shortwave has passed.

    I really think analogue RF broadcasting is in its final decades. For my interests/work/study shortwave has become such a painful and inefficient way to access information. There are far more reliable and efficient (far more economical for both broadcaster AND listener) means to receive information. I am typing this while in Singapore, even MW is not used in this part of the world (Singapore/Malaysia) any longer.

    I can listen to domestic (and international outlets) radio and watch TV from virtually anywhere in the world digitally from wherever I am. Here in my hotel room in Singapore (I am here for the Kim/Trump summit) as I type I am watching Nth Korean TV in HD live, and listening to Nth Korean radio in digital stereo. At the same time, I am also scanning CNN USA Domestic, MSNBC, CBSN and Fox News on my iPad even though these are USA domestic television channels and I am on the other side of the planet.

    When in China I can listen to Radio Free Asia, BBC and VOA with total ease via digital methods – if I attempt that using shortwave all I hear is jamming.

    The world has already changed – of course, I love shortwave, but even I find it a pain in the ass to use for any real work/purpose. Shortwave reception means noise / QRM / having to wait for the right time of day for propagation / limited programming. So for any actual purpose other than my hobby, I don’t or wouldn’t bother.

    Almost every home in the Asia and Pacific region has 10s if not 100s of TV and radio channels available to them. And they are broadcasting in digital formats. In Mongolia, most urts have a satellite dish. In India, every home (even in the Mumbai slums) has hundreds of digital channels. In Indonesia, every home has hundreds of channels. Go into all these homes and you won’t find a shortwave receiver.

    Certainly, any investment by Australia in new shortwave infrastructure is a total waste of money – it’s better to invest this same budget in the information modalities that people (that Australia’s government is actually interested in targeting) actually use. Of course, the targets for Australian external broadcasting is not DXers or SWLs listening to mailbag programs. It’s the people that would be interested in investing or doing business with Australia, or people that can further our political/ global/economic relationships. These people don’t use or even have shortwave radios.

    Reply
    1. Tom Servo

      Let me know when the Outback has all those options and high speed internet. Or remote Pacific islands. That’s who needs some sort of alternative broadcast outlet, not people in Singapore or Mumbai.

      I agree that ABC isn’t going to ever return to shortwave, but they really should have never disappeared completely, either.

      Eventually shortwave will no longer be a necessity, but ABC’s timeline to pull the plug was a bit premature IMHO.

      Reply
  3. Keith Perron

    A similar thing happened in Canada when RCI’s HF site was switched off. Just like Mark said Radio Australia will not be coming back to shortwave, just as Radio Canada International.

    I remember a few years speaking to the head of BBC Monitoring who said that even they even stopped monitoring broadcasts on shortwave. At the moment we still have a few pockets where shortwave is still used. But with in the next 24 months even these will be gone.

    Reply
  4. Tom Reitzel

    Never say never.

    I can certainly envision scenarios where state propagandists might consider returning to shortwave broadcasting.

    I’ll say it again. Never, EVER say never.

    Reply
    1. Tom Reitzel

      Forgive me. 😉

      I keep hoping that Cuba’s government will start slashing the budget for RHC. 😉

      Reply
  5. Mark Fahey

    Just a comment about access to media in “the outback” etc. prompted by a comment above….

    This is written in good spirit! I’m not at all trying at all to argue! I’m just trying to be truthful and overcome the all-pervasive urban legends in DXing and SWL circles… I’m not sure why there is so much miss communication out there – Australia is a democratic socialist type state (from the perspective of an Amercian!), access to national infrastructure is the right of every citizen here (including free access to healthcare, national broadcast non-commerical media etc). The Australian government wouldn’t just turn off radio for anyone outside of the cites on a whim with no alternative delivery – our society just doesn’t work like that!

    There is high-speed internet right across the Outback and remote areas of the country – even including far-flung islands. This fact seems unpopular in radio hobby circles, but the myth of the unconnected Australian outback seems to really propagate at an amazing rate in SWL and DX community.

    First high-speed internet…
    There two government provided satellites (national broadband network) that cover the whole country and have been in service since 2016. Another is soon to join which will improve the mobile internet options. Radio and television are available on this via internet streaming but there is also a totally different govenment provided dedicated free-of-charge outback radio and TV service, more about that in the next paragraph. Meanwhile, this is the place to start to find out more about the remote area broadband.

    https://www.nbnco.com.au/residential/learn/network-technology/sky-muster-explained.html

    Radio & TV across the Outback

    This is provided to all Australians via the Optus Satellites free-of-charge. It’s part of our national media foundational infrastructure. It delivers the same range of media services (TV & Radio – Public broadcasters ABC, SBS, NITV and the commercial networks just like anyone in a large Australian city receives.

    Then additionally, of course, anyone in the outback can subscribe to the commercial subscription TV satellite service has well over 100 channels of TV and a large range of radio as well. This is exactly the same services that are available with small KU band dishes in any city.

    Seriously it is a total myth that the outback has no media – it is exactly the same availability to content as Sydney or Melbourne! Just the modality is by satellite or 4G if you are out of FM range. And it’s free!

    As for Radio Australia…
    In the Pacific, in capital city’s Radio Australia is on FM, the whole Asia-Pacific region receives Radio Australia via satellite radio. RA is commonly available on cable systems throughout the region. Their potential audience today (people with instant availability to RA) I expect is larger than it has ever been in its history.

    You can find out more about RA’s frequencies and coverage here:
    http://www.abc.net.au/radio-australia/frequencies/

    Reply
  6. Mangosman

    I am from Australia.
    Firstly the ABC doesn’t want Radio Australia in any form, not even online. Look at the program guide, can you see any program which has not been on a domestic network? Where are the programs made for foreigners?

    Secondly with regard to remote Australia the ABC claims that you can listen to their programs on the VAST satellite system. Yes you can but you need a fixed satellite dish and the receiver also has to be tuned to and ABC TV channel at the same time. So what do you do in a moving vehicle, tracking systems are only affordable by mining companies and governments. The areas are so big you can drive all day with no Australian radio at all. The ABC wants you to use your phone. There is no coverage over 60 % of the land mass. Satellite phones don’t do broadband and speech phone is $3/min.

    DRM is the answer for short wave because you can have stereo radio which is noise and distortion free provided there is enough signal to prevent excessive errors.

    Reply
    1. RonF

      AlanH/st0johns/Mangosman is pretty much right – at least about the practicality of the current sat coverage outside of fixed base stations, & mobile data coverage.

      (And what happened to the mobile/portable ‘solutions’ the ABC was supposedly evaluating at the time of the ABC NT SW shutdown a year ago? As far as I know, nothing has been heard of them since…)

      The story of RA is a bit trickier than he relates – a lot of it is down to the ABC being stripped of funding, and not wanting to be the football in a game between DFAT & the Government being played in Rupert Murdoch Stadium – but, yeah, they don’t want it. Well, they’d _like_ it, and see it as part of their remit – but they realise that, economically or politically, they can’t afford to have it. The only reason they still have the Australia Network / Australia Plus sat TV channel is because DFAT insists it exists, the commercials networks couldn’t make it profitable, and the Government wouldn’t pay Murdoch’s Sky to take it over.

      But DRM isn’t the solution; it’s done and dusted. 10 years ago, maybe, but … well, the chicken-and-egg of no compelling reason for broadcasters _or_ consumers to adopt it (particularly in the face of an increasingly streaming-based world), and very limited receiver options & availability (including nothing approaching reasonable quality at a reasonable price and, in the case of portables, anything with battery life worth a damn) doomed it. Even now, in India – probably the DRM Consortium’s biggest ‘success’ story – despite increasing availability of broadcasts & receivers it remains a technical curio.

      Analogue costs just as much to roll out, close enough to the same to run, and there are millions of possible receivers to choose from – not a tiny handful. The few advantages it may have – EWS, low-speed data, etc – are of such limited/occasional use as to not be economical viable except in niche cases, and rarely implemented in practice (c.f. the ABC’s insistence that they are _not_ an emergency broadcaster!).

      Reply

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