South Australian Liberal Senator Anne Ruston will move to broaden a Senate inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to examine the ABC’s obligations to provide local television news services in regional Australia.
Senator Ruston said the sudden closure of WIN Television SA’s news service this week left a void that could be filled by the ABC.
“South Australians in the Riverland, Mallee and South-East have been told this was a commercial decision,” she said. “If it is not commercially viable for the television licence holder in these areas to provide a local news service then the public broadcaster may have a role to play in filling the void.
“The question is whether or not the ABC has an obligation to provide local television news services in a regional area where commercial broadcasters do not provide them.”
Senator Ruston, a member of the Senate Environment and Communication Reference Committee, said she would address the issue in the Committee’s current inquiry into the ABC’s commitment to reflecting and representing regional diversity.
“The inquiry is investigating the ABC’s commitment to reflecting and representing regional diversity in Australia, and the impact of increased centralisation of television production in Sydney and Melbourne on the ABC’s ability to meet this commitment.
“I have written to the Chair of the Committee, Senator Simon Birmingham that the inquiry be broadened to deal with these issues,” she said.
Senator Ruston said WIN’s capacity to fund a news service in regional SA had been crippled by the Gillard Labor Government.
“The Government has imposed greater costs and regulation on regional small businesses in Australia, which have been forced to cut their advertising spending and other costs as a result,” she said.
“This has been reflected across all regional media – advertising revenues are down, local newspapers are getting thinner, and services like WIN’s news are being cut to compensate.”