Television coverage for Kimba and surrounding areas was high on the agenda of Senate estimates hearings last week, with Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham pursuing the broadcast boundaries that cause the Kimba area to receive Imparja ahead of local Southern Cross GTS/BKN television.
Senator Birmingham pursued the issue at hearings with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), who have responsibility for license area boundaries, saying that he had “received correspondence from the District Council of Kimba and others in regard to the boundaries for the Spencer Gulf TV1 licence area”.
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.
“Most of the communities of the eastern and central parts of the Eyre Peninsula fall within the Spencer Gulf TV1 zone, but there is this chunk of communities taken out of the side”, Senator Birmingham told the hearings. ”It does not seem to make a lot of sense in terms of communities of interest or any other rationale that I can see.”
Senator Birmingham was told by ACMA officials that broadcasters within the licence areas had to demonstrate a willingness to actually broadcast into a new area before a change to boundaries would be considered.
“Whereas anyone can ask us to look at a licence area plan boundary, there is not much point unless there are broadcasters of the desired service that are willing to come to the party and stump up the investment in a retransmission facility and in some way get the signal to that retransmission facility,” Mr Giles Tanner of the ACMA said.
With the planned switch-off of analogue signals in regional South Australia in the second half of 2010 requiring broadcasters to invest in new digital facilities anyway, Senator Birmingham asked “would it be possible to consider an application and to get such a review and such changes put in place as a result of the digital switchover?”
He was advised by Mr Tanner that the ACMA does “have a work program of licence area plan variations, and there would be issues about priorities, but if there were an opportunity there to do something, if there were an optimum occasion to do that in connection with digitisation, for example, I guess that is a factor we would have regard to in assigning a priority to any request.”
Speaking afterwards, Senator Birmingham said he had pursued the issue on behalf of residents in the Kimba area for more than a year and, following unsatisfactory responses from the Communications Minister and others, had decided to give the issue priority during the Senate estimates hearings.
“Receiving news and sports broadcasts relevant to South Australia and the local area is important to many people,” Senator Birmingham said, “which is why I will accept ACMA’s advice and hold further discussions with local MP Rowan Ramsey, Southern Cross GTS/BKN and the District Council of Kimba as soon as possible”.