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More voices call in regional media plan.

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Senator John Cherry Communications Spokesperson Australian Democrats

November 3, 2002 MEDIA RELEASE 02/519

More voices call in regional media plan The Australian Democrats have called for regional media policy promoting more local news and programs on radio and television, expansion of public broadcasters’ networks, more help for community broadcasting and continuing restrictions on cross media ownership.

Democrats Communications spokesperson Senator John Cherry said he had made a submission to the Australian Broadcasting Authority supporting making the provision of local television news or information a mandatory licence condition, but suggesting that the minimum time to be broadcast suggested by the ABA needed to be doubled to at least two hours of news per week.

“The ABA’s licence condition approach is preferable to the Government’s alternative to legislating some as yet non-specific obligation on regional broadcasters,” he said.

“I think there is real scope for some creative local program development by providing local interest programming as an alternative to news as well.

“The Democrats have called on the ABA to consider extending a local programming condition to regional radio. 70% of radio broadcast on local radio stations is now sourced from the network rather than locally, and radio is not pulling its weight in servicing the local community.

“In wanting more voices in the bush, we are backing the ambitious $18 million plan by the ABC to broaden out its five radio networks (particularly Triple J and News Radio) to all towns with a population over 10,000.

“This would extend Local radio to 3 new centres, Radio National to 5, Classic FM to 12, Triple J to 14 and News Radio to 37 stations, giving 3.4 million listeners access to NewsRadio (and its enormously entertaining broadcasts of the Federal Parliament) and 1.2 million listeners to access to Triple J.

“The Democrats recognise the contribution of Australia’s 452 community owned broadcasters, many being set up in regional centres only in recent years.

“The training role of community broadcasting needs to be recognised with more financial support for training, and also for support of Australian music.

“While community and public broadcasters provide important alternative voices, and aggregated commercial beam of full network offerings, it is commercial radio and newspapers that are the key local media outlets in smaller regional centres

“In NSW, Victoria and Queensland, 23 towns have a locally produced television news bulletin, 34 have a daily newspaper, 73 have a local radio station, and 233 have a weekly newspaper.

“The Democrats can see no merit in the Government’s proposed cross-media law proposal to allow media proprietors to own “two out of three” levels of media in regional centres, when in most centres there are only two levels of local media .

“The Government has failed to deliver a fair deal for regional media, and more will need to be done to ensure that diversity of voices is delivered to all parts of Australia.

“We will be insisting on a better deal for regional media when the Parliament considers media ownership laws later this year,” Senator Cherry concluded.