Radio decision slammed

March 13, 2017

Radio Australia's HF radio transmission site at north Shepparton.

Victorian National Party’s Senator Bridget McKenzie has grilled the head of the ABC over its decision to shut down shortwave radio broadcasting.

The only regional-based Victorian senator has joined the growing criticism towards the national broadcaster after shortwave was shut down earlier this year following more than 70 years of broadcasting.

The decision effectively mothballed the historic Shepparton shortwave broadcasting facility, which had sent Radio Australia programming across the pacific and the globe for decades.

In the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee, Ms McKenzie asked ABC head Michelle Guthrie what consultation was done before shortwave was switched off domestically and internationally.

Ms Guthrie said extensive research was done before the shutdown of the service, but when speaking to The News, Ms McKenzie said it was another sign of the ABC being too focused on urban Australia.

‘‘It is a city-centric and Sydney-centric ABC,’’ Ms McKenzie said.

She was concerned that the shutdown would harm Northern Territorians who relied on the shortwave ABC broadcast during emergencies, as well as weakening the voice of Australia internationally by making it more difficult for people to tune in to the Radio Australia broadcast.

Currently the broadcast can be heard overseas only via digital services including webstreaming.

‘‘We are seen as a leader in the region and ensuring our voice and values are heard throughout the region is important,’’ Ms McKenzie said.

‘‘It is foolhardy to assume that everyone has the same access to digital services.’’

Although she was strongly opposed to the decision on shortwave, Ms McKenzie did not support South Australian senator Nick Xenophon’s push to force the ABC to bring it back.

‘‘Once we start going down the path of politicians overriding the decisions of independent boards it is a slippery slope,’’ she said.

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