Recently I heard that the HF radio transmission site at Shepparton, known as Radio Australia, is to be shut down.
I believe this is mostly due to budget cuts to the ABC by the Federal Government.
The ABC uses this site to broadcast services into Asia and the Pacific Islands.
The site is owned by a private company, Broadcast Australia.
The ABC pays Broadcast Australia to use the transmission site at Shepparton, but it does not own the facility.
I understand the ABC needs to cut back on some services it provides and make use of the latest technology. This makes sense except in the case of the Shepparton facility.
The Shepparton transmission site has the capability to direct radio signals into specific countries as we see fit.
This is unique to this site, as no other site can reach the countries this one can.
In my time as district manager at the Shepparton site, I recall some instances where the Shepparton site was called upon to direct radio signals to specific targets.
At one point the Fiji Government shut down the local Australian ABC transmitter.
Shepparton sent radio into that country to keep Australians informed during that time.
When there was a coup in the Solomon Islands, once again we sent signals into that country.
We also sent radio signals into Myanmar at the request of the Australian Government.
Another task that the Shepparton site fulfils is to send signals into northern Australia in times of need, for example during Cyclone Larry when the Northern Territory radio service was beamed back to the tropical north from Shepparton.
The Shepparton site is in a location that has good weather and is politically stable.
This makes it an ideal tool for widespread information broadcasting.
The ABC would argue that this HF radio service is old technology and can be replaced by the internet or satellite services.
This is true.
However, the ABC and the Federal Government do not control the internet or satellite services in other countries and therefore they are not reliable.
HF radio broadcasting from a secure location is very reliable.
So why remove this service?
Does the Federal Government understand the value of this international radio service?
I hope that in writing this letter, its value will become clear to those who have the power to make decisions.
The Australian Government is in the position of being ‘hands off’ the ABC’s management of services, and I would agree for every service it provides except this one.
Radio Australia Shepparton should be partly controlled by the Australian Government, not just the ABC.
I plead that this broadcasting site remains in service and continues to provide northern Australia and oversees services for Australians home and abroad.
You could also argue that long-range radio lets the world know we are here, and gives Australians both in our home country and overseas vital information in times of need.
— Gary Baker, former district manager at Radio Australia, Shepparton