At a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie was asked to present details of the research and consultation that took place before deciding to switch off shortwave radio services.
Guthrie did not table any research, but did speak about the low number of complaints that have been received since the switch off was announced. “Fewer than 15 people have contacted us since we made the announcement, so the number of people affected seems to be very small,” said Guthrie.
The ABC MD told Senators she is confident the organisation has not breached its charter by cancelling its shortwave radio service. Guthrie explained that there was duplication of services, with similar programs being broadcast on FM transmitters, the VAST satellite service and shortwave.
Senators pressed Ms Guthrie to reveal the research that was conducted before making the decision and also quoted groups such as cattlemen and fishers, who felt they would be disadvantaged by the shortwave switch off. They also made the point that the shortwave services were also heard in PNG and the Pacific Islands.
“We have identified that there are more than 22,000 active VAST decoders in the Northern Territory, which equates to over a quarter of all Northern Territory households, and these households are primarily outside AM, FM and terrestrial TV coverage,” Guthrie told the committee.
Northern Territory Senator Malarndirri McCarthy asked when exactly the national broadcaster had conducted its consultation with listeners in the NT.
Guthrie: “Following the decision we very much reached out to our listeners and they were provided with notice of the change.”
McCarthy: “So you consulted after you made the decision?”
Guthrie: “In addition we did consult with particular stakeholders before the decision was made.”