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Land Rights News Central Australia: Land Rights News (April 2010)

Published: April, 2010

Doubt over bush TV

The current analogue system received by communities on a single satellite dish and rebroadcast to households has been in place since the late 80s, but will end by late 2013. In its place will be a new digital service which the Australian Government says will provide expanded services that other Australians now take for granted, but how this system will work is currently causing deep concern to Aboriginal media services.

Indigenous Community TV (ICTV) General manager Rita Cattoni says that the Government is favouring the ‘direct to home’ (DTH) model – everybody gets their own satellite dish on their house and they receive programs direct from the satellite – without any opportunity for local media associations to insert their own broadcasts.

“While remote communications aren’t high on the Government’s agenda, we believe the Government does have an obligation to ensure that existing services will be retained,” Catoni says. “And there could be opportunities there with such an expanded service that we wouldn’t want to miss”.

Both ICTV and Warlpiri Media have concerns about the proposed model. Susan Locke of Warlpiri Media says that the government has not publicly announced how it will support Aboriginal community television to upgrade to digital transmission.

“At this stage it looks like local Aboriginal community TV will not be able to be transmitted once the digital switchover happens.

Individual satellite dishes on each house are enormously expensive and have ongoing maintenance issues.

ICTV says very few of the pay TV systems installed on communities are operational after six months. Both organisations say that the dishes are vulnerable to rocks being thrown on them as happens to solar panels and satellite dishes and maintenance will be expensive.

Warlpiri Media says that it is common for people to leave a home for extended periods of up to 12 months following a death and their satellite dish won’t be able to be moved to their new location.

Many people live a large proportion of their time outside and in many cases there are multiple families living in the same house with multiple TVs. Each TV set will need its own satellite receiver, and moving a TV outside for viewing is not feasible.

The potential loss of the BRACs services is also on the cards with no provision currently for their future under the new scheme.

“There is still no commitment from the government to upgrade Aboriginal community TV licences (effectively narrowcast TV licences ) to digital - Yuendumu TV is the first Aboriginal TV station in Australia,” says Ms Locke.

“We still operate it and run programs over it - this will be lost if the government doesn't upgrade us to digital and part of Aboriginal heritage will be lost."