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Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Page: 175

Senator Carr asked the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 10 April 2007:

With reference to the Minister’s press release of 23 February 2007, entitled “Telstra sale to benefit Indigenous Broadcasting”, in which a $90 million Backing Indigenous Ability program was announced as part of the Connect Australia initiative, including $51.8 million over four years to develop an Indigenous television service and restore ageing radio infrastructure:

(1)   How much of this funding was, or has been, expended in each of the financial years 2005-06 and 2006-07 to date.

(2)   At what stage is the development of the Indigenous television service; if the service is not currently transmitting, when is it estimated that it will be.

(3)   In what ways has the radio infrastructure been upgraded.

(4)   Was a needs assessment conducted in remote Indigenous communities in relation to radio infrastructure and/or television services; if so, can details be provided of: (a) the date and contents of this assessment; and (b) if the assessment was conducted by an outside contractor(s), their name and the value of the contract.

(5)   Was the $90 million figure based on the results of a needs assessment or survey; if not how was it determined.

Senator Coonan (Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts) —The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

(1)   The $89.9m Backing Indigenous Ability (BIA) funding is available over four years from 2006-07 and the program has three elements (Telecommunications, Radio and Television). To date in 2006-07 there has been $0.649m administered expenditure on the Television program and $1.564m was allocated for departmental running costs in 2006-07 for the three BIA elements.

(2)   It is expected that the National Indigenous Television service will begin transmission in July 2007.

(3)   No radio infrastructure has yet been upgraded.

(4)   Background information on radio requirements at remote sites was gathered during the recent rollout of Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Services television transmitters. A detailed study of the precise needs of remote radio stations will be conducted as part of the BIA radio program.

(5)   An extensive consultation process has been conducted to ensure the design of the BIA program best reflects the needs of Indigenous communities. On 27 March 2006, a discussion paper on the BIA telecommunications program was released. This formed the basis of consultations in selected Indigenous centres and capital cities around Australia and 59 submissions were received. In regard to the television program, an extended period of consultation was conducted. A discussion paper on a review of the viability of creating an Indigenous television service was released on 10 May 2004 and 400 emails and 49 submissions were received. Community consultations were also held by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts in capital cities and some regional centres. This culminated in the release of a report in August 2005, Indigenous Television Review Report, which canvassed options for the Government’s consideration. In regard to radio, information on the need to upgrade ageing radio infrastructure was collected in the course of undertaking the rollout of Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Services television transmitters to Indigenous communities. The BIA program was announced on 17 August 2005.