Local Radio is "the spine of the ABC" says Mark Scott | radioinfo

Local Radio is "the spine of the ABC" says Mark Scott

Friday 30 May, 2014

In the Senate Estimates Hearing this week, ABC MD Mark Scott told Senator O’Niell that “Local Radio is the spine of what we do” and explained the role of the ABC service to the community.
However, he could not speculate about cuts to Local Radio and their potential size, repeatedly stating that it will “depend on the funding envelope that we can operate out of.”

Quoting rumours that the ABC would close its Gosford studios, Senator O’Neill asked Scott whether the ABC planned to make cuts to Local Radio in her Central Coast electorate, stating she was “very heartened by your deep understanding and articulation of the role of the ABC in reflecting back to communities their own stories and, critically, in times of emergency as well.”
Scott denied the rumour, telling the Senator “no proposal has come to me to close the Central Coast studio and the satellite service it offers to 702 Sydney.”  While the studios are not likely to close, the office location is being reviewed because the lease on the current ABC 92.7 studios is coming to an end.
The discussion quickly moved on to the implicit question of where Local Radio stood in the wake of the recent Budget cuts.
Scott: “I think local radio is the spine of what we do. I think you referenced emergency broadcasting. I think it has been terribly important. The ABC's role in emergency broadcasting has grown significantly over the years.”
“We look to be responsible stewards as emergency broadcasters. We take the role very seriously. I think in any circumstances we would look to deliver the best possible service that we can. But it is expensive and we continue to try to prioritise funding for it.”
Later, Senator McKenzie voiced his concern that ABC Local Radio was already being neglected by the ABC.

Senator McKenzie: “I go to your annual report and the section on radio. I note that we sing the praises of Triple J. We sing the praises of Radio National, Classic FM, News Radio and digital mobile online. Thank you for the app. I use it often. Nowhere in that space is local radio. For the majority of Australians who do back the ABC, who are in regional areas, it is sadly lacking.”

Mr Scott: “I do not have a copy of the report here. I think we overwhelmingly sing the praises of local radio. I have often described them as the spine that we do not see.”

Senator McKenzie: “Well, I hope your budget also sings the praises of regional and local radio.”

Mr Scott: “I just hope that our budget envelope is one that allows us to continue to be able to invest in the renewal of local radio. It is the lifeblood of what we do. It is a very important connection for millions of Australians every day.”
When asked about what the $20 million cut from $35 to $15 million will mean for the ABC’s existing charter to provide international services, Scott replied “I do not think we will be able to deliver the footprint that we delivered on Australia Network. We hope to keep the core services of Radio Australia and our online activities going. We are not sure what our opportunities will be in television.”
Yet with a decrease in funding leading to a lesser ability to broadcast expensive television services, Scott is sceptical of Australia’s international presence in Asia.
“Radio still remains very strong in the Pacific. Radio Australia has played a tremendous role there. Over the last decade or two, what is clear is that radio has nowhere the impact in Asia, but television still has a very significant impact. If you go back 30 years, Radio Australia had a very strong impact in Asia, but radio services and investment in radio services in Asia have declined and investment in television services has grown in that time.”

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