Mr Deputy Speaker,
More than a month ago the SBS broadcast signal in the town of Bermagui on the Far South Coast of New South Wales dropped out.
Overnight, more than fifteen hundred people lost access to SBS and NITV without any warning and not much explanation as to why.
My office was instantly inundated by residents who were extremely concerned and frustrated by this development.
The decision was made by the company maintaining the transmitter that it simply could not afford to keep up with the cost of repairs.
The maintenance of these sites has been provided by commercial broadcasters at their own cost – free of charge to SBS and ABC – since the transition to digital broadcasting over the last 10 years.
The Bermagui site is just the beginning – there are five other sites managed by this company in my electorate that could soon lose their ABC and SBS broadcast services – including Batlow, Bungendore, Dalmeny, Merimbula and Tumbarumba.
Regional communities rely heavily on the ABC and SBS, including for emergency broadcasting – this is a matter of safety.
And what does this government say?
I wrote to the Communications Minister about this a month ago and haven’t heard a single word back.
Rather than act to avoid the problem or sort out this mess, the Government has remained silent and pushed the cost onto our public broadcasters.
The same public broadcasters that have had their funding savagely slashed under this government.
How many programs, services or jobs will the ABC need to cut from the regions to find the extra six hundred thousand dollars a year in transmission costs?
This is simply not good enough and regional Australians deserve better from this government.