ABC charter changes shelved, community radio cuts prevented
Senator Derryn Hinch has been responsible for two significant media decisions this year.
He was instrumental in preventing the community broadcasting sector suffering budget cuts and, along with other cross-benchers, also blocked legislation proposed by Pauline Hanson which would have brought changes to the ABC Charter.
While the ABC was in turmoil this week legislation to force the national broadcaster to reveal staff salaries and to include the words “fair and balanced” in its charter was quietly taken off the table by the government after Hinch and other cross benchers said they would not support it.
Earlier in the year, Hinch was instrumental in preventing cuts and getting more funds for the community radio sector. The former talk radio presenter told Rod Chambers:
“Because of my background in radio they knew I had a sympathetic ear… The government had decided to cut funding to community radio. It was quite merciless what they were going to do…
“Some pen pusher shiny bum in a suit had decided we can save money here… the cross benchers and Labor came with me and we fought for it… In the end they realized the value of community radio.”
Hinch is fielding a candidate in Malcolm Turnbull’s former seat of Wentworth in the upcoming by-election on September 20.
“The way that Malcolm Turnbull got dumped… has made people angry. We’re running a slogan ‘sick of them vote for us.’ We want to send a message to Canberra…”
Asked if radio is still relevant in the internet age, Hinch said:
“Of course it is. Radio is so immediate. I’ve done television and radio. In television you have a Panzer tank division behind you… radio is small and quick, when there’s an earthquake or tidal wave somewhere you’re live on the phone in a minute. Social media is there of course but radio is still the people’s friend. It’s a very personal thing between your audience and you.”
Rod: Do you think politicians value their appearances on radio?
Hinch: I certainly do. Journos at Sky TV laugh at me and say ‘you seem to be the only one who doesn’t care if you’re on TV.’
I think [newspapers] did the wrong thing in the early days of the internet when they decided not to have paywalls… they started to give away their content for free on the net. I remember saying, ‘are you crazy, why are you giving it away?’ And now they scoop themselves, you see on the SMH website a story that is going to be in the paper 16 hours later, that’s why circulations are down.
Rod: What’s it like speaking in the Senate compared to speaking in a radio studio?
Hinch: Fairly similar actually. There’s not many people there, it’s like being in a radio studio. People often see the empty Senate and say who are you talking to…
I find it very natural, some people in there drone on and on for the full 20 minutes and their speeches are written by a staffer… I write all my own and very seldom go over 5 minutes.
Rod: Do you miss being on radio?
Hinch: I’m on radio and tv so much there’s not much difference. Being a Senator harder work than I thought it would be, but I love it.
Rod: What advice would you give young people getting into radio now?
Hinch: Keep your enthusiasm up… you’ve got a seat on the aisle of history, make the most of it.
Rod Chambers is Sydney EP of the national community radio current affairs program The Wire.
His full interview with Hinch is here.