Senator Simon Birmingham and the Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsey, have met with Southern Cross Broadcasting executives to discuss television coverage issues facing South Australia’s north and west.
These included services to areas of South Australia’s west coast outside the Spencer Gulf TV1 licence area, but more broadly the opportunities and concerns relating to the coming digital switchover across the regions.
The meeting in Canberra last week followed representations made to both federal Liberal parliamentarians by the District Council of Kimba and others in regard to licence area boundaries and next year’s planned switch-off of analogue signals.
“Whilst ideally we believe licence areas should be adjusted, we recognise there is some resistance to this arising out of entrenched media markets having been developed as a result of substantial investment,” Senator Birmingham said today.
Kimba and surrounding areas are currently served by SBS, Imparja and Seven Central, with their focus on Alice Springs and Mount Isa, through the District Council of Kimba’s retransmission facility supported by federal Black Spots funding. This is despite the South Australian based services of Southern Cross GTS/BKN being broadcast to the north, east and south of Kimba.
“Significant opportunities do exist, through digital switchover, to improve the range and local relevance of services broadcast to people across the west coast, including towns like Wudinna, Streaky Bay and Ceduna who similarly receive limited services with virtually no local content,” Senator Birmingham said.
“The Rudd Government should provide support for services to regional Australians, including these and other parts of the Remote Central licence area, to ensure coverage issues and the receipt of a full suite of digital services are addressed,” Mr Ramsey said.
“In addition to the urgent need for improved services across the west coast, there is also a real risk as we move towards digital switchover that the Spencer Gulf broadcast area may miss out on the so-called digital dividend and will continue to receive only around four TV channels while much of the rest of Australia progresses to metropolitan levels of service with up to 15 channels.”
Mr Ramsey also presented in the Parliament last week, on behalf of residents of the Copper Coast, a petition on digital television seeking to ensure continuity of service after the analogue switch-off.
“These residents fear they may be disadvantaged and actually lose services in the digital switchover, let alone move towards metropolitan levels of service, and I urge the Government to address their concerns,” Mr Ramsey said.