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Monday, 3 April 2000
Page: 15111

Mr Andren asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, upon notice, on 7 March 2000:

(1) Is the Government committed to providing regional and remote area radio listeners who have print handicap with the same level of broadcasting service provided to those in metropolitan areas; if so, how.

(2) Has the Minister investigated the pricing proposal from Radio for all Australians Association Inc. to broadcast from one fully equipped studio by satellite.

(3) When will the Government make a final decision on funding for the proposal.

Mr McGauran (Minister for the Arts and the Centenary of Federation) —The Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) The Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) has been progressively planning new radio services throughout Australia and new radio licences have already been allocated in most regional and remote areas. Four regional community licences have been granted to RPH Australia, the national body that represents radio for the print handicapped service providers. In addition, RPH Australia has established a satellite service that carries dedicated programming for the print handicapped and can be accessed and rebroadcast by community radio stations, or picked up by direct to home satellite receivers.

(2) The Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and the ABA have investigated the proposal put forward by Radio for all Australians Association Inc. In addition to the cost of establishing a satellite service, a national network would require the installation of terrestrial transmitters and access to broadcasting band frequencies. Unfortunately, the shortage of suitable frequencies is a major obstacle to establishing a national network. In most regional licence areas, the ABA has allocated all available frequencies for new licences. As indicated previously, RPH Australia already has in place a national satellite service with programming dedicated to the print handicapped.

(3) Funding to implement proposals of this nature would be considered in the Budget context. The Government already provides funding to the Community Broadcasting Foundation Ltd for services for the print handicapped. In 1999-2000, $270,000 was allocated to RPH stations, and an additional $358,000 was provided for transmission of those services.