The ABC and SBS have emerged unscathed from Treasurer Wayne Swan’s pursuit to cut over $40 billion in order to find a $1.5 billion surplus, with steady increases in government expenditure for Australia’s public broadcasters. The Government will provide $7.6 million extra over five years to allow the ABC to upgrade its radio transmission sites and studios to become compatible with the new Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) signal by 1 January 2014.
This new funding will ensure the transition of radio services to the Government-funded VAST satellite platform on completion of the switchover to digital only television across Australia. The VAST service will then become the source for the ABC terrestrial radio services.
The government expects that the ABC will convert a total of 652 radio services located at 367 transmission sites to accept the VAST signal, and upgrade 60 studio sites to both upload and download radio content via VAST.
The Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy said. “This new funding will ensure that millions of Australians retain access to critically important ABC radio services that they rely on for news, current affairs, sport and entertainment.
“Users of VAST “direct-to-home” satellite receivers will also benefit because VAST will carry the ABC’s digital-only radio channels Dig, ABC Country, ABC Jazz, ABC Grandstand and triple J unearthed,” said Senator Conroy.
VAST will also carry the Tasmania Local Radio service for the first time, as well as enable an additional local radio service to be transmitted terrestrially in regional Queensland.
The SBS as a whole will receive $332 million in 2012-13, up by $16 million. Their net capital investment is estimated to be $7 million in 2012-13, down from $22 million in the previous financial year.
Senator Conroy said, “In an increasingly multicultural society, the Australian Government recognizes SBS as one of Australia’s most important institutions
“This represents the most significant funding boost SBS has ever had, and will ensure SBS can continue to provide a unique broadcasting service that includes comprehensive television, radio and online services,” Senator Conroy said.
While the increase in funding for SBS television is indeed significant, not all is rosy in the land of ethnic radio.
In a statement from the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council (NEMBC), its President Dr Tangi Steen, welcomed the 2012/13 Federal Budget “which maintained the level of funding for the core business of content development in community broadcasting for Ethnic, Indigenous and Print Handicapped broadcasting.”
However, Dr. Steen noted with concern that the Budget does not provide additional funds for the Digital Radio Project or the continuation of the Australian Music Radio Play Project.
“Ethnic radio community broadcasting is by far Australia’s major ethnic radio broadcaster. It produces four times as much programming as SBS Radio in about 110 languages by thousands of volunteers over 100 stations; hence it should be entitled to a better deal,” said Dr Steen.
The NEMBC, said Dr Steen, “Urges all ethnic communities and others in this multicultural nation of ours to call upon the Federal Government and all political parties to give ethnic community radio broadcasting a better deal in the next budget and in their party policies especially leading up to the next election.”