Reaction to Radio Australia's planned shortwave closure

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Saturday, December 17, 2016
Image credit: Matt Kieffer
Further to my previous post on the planned closure of Radio Australia's shortwave transmissions, below are some of the reactions I subsequently came across in the Australian and Pacific media. There is now also a petition on Change.org calling on the Australian government to cancel the decision, which I encourage all Radio Australia's supporters to sign.

ABC boss Michelle Guthrie urged to abandon 'perplexing, alarming' Northern Territory broadcast decision (Canberra Times)
ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie is facing conflict on a new front after two Labor MPs demanded the national broadcaster reverse a decision over the future of broadcasting in the Northern Territory.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon have expressed "deep disappointment" and concern about the plan to end shortwave broadcasting in the NT from the end of January.

[...]

The ABC is continuing to broadcast via FM and AM frequencies, the viewer access satellite television (VAST) service and online streaming but various NT figures have argued the shortwave transmitters - in Katherine, Tennant Creek and Roe Creek - allow remote listeners to access radio and are a crucial platform during natural disasters.

A group of Indigenous rangers told the ABC last week that ending the shortwave service could be life-threatening because, when operating remotely, the service is the "only way of getting the weather reports" that can warn of incoming cyclones.

[...]

Their intervention comes as Ms Guthrie marks an intense first year in the job, with staff at Radio National recently passing a no confidence motion in management.
Australian opposition concerned about cuts to ABC shortwave services (ABC audio interview)
Australia's opposition is asking the ABC questions about its decision to shut down its shortwave service to the Pacific.

Labor's spokesperson on International Development and the Pacific, Senator Claire Moore, says they are concerned that Australia's engagement in the Pacific will suffer because of the decision.

She was recently in the Pacific as part of a bipartisan delegation of Australian politicians visiting Vanuatu, Solomon islands and Samoa.

Ms Moore tells Bruce Hill Labor has concerns about what happens with radio broadcasting during cyclones, and whether other countries might want to fill the gap left by Australia withdrawing.
Pacific nations lose shortwave radio services that evade dictators and warn of natural disasters (The Conversation, republished by the Huffington Post)
[...] The move away from shortwave to FM transmissions and digital and mobile services has been accelerated despite the fact that FM frequencies can easily be shut down by disaffected political leaders, as happened in Fiji in 2009 on the order of then self-appointed Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

It was a matter of national pride at the time for the ABC to be providing independent information for Fijians via shortwave, with then managing director of the corporation, Mark Scott, highlighting a text message sent from inside Fiji to the ABC, which read “We are trying to listen to you online but are having difficulty. Please keep broadcasting. You are all we have”.

Shortwave radio has played a valuable role in getting information to communities in the middle of civil disturbance, such as in East Timor in the lead up to independence.

In Burma, it was internal leaders who sought the shortwave services. In 2009, Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Australia to provide shortwave broadcasts. At the time the ABC’s director of international, Murray Green, said the move reflected the ABC’s ongoing commitment to serving people in those parts of Asia and the Pacific who live without press freedom. Even before this announcement was made, the price of shortwave radios was increased in Burma’s Sittwe market.

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[The] BBC clearly recognises a need to boost its international broadcasting, using shortwave to beat censors in autocratic regimes.

It is a great shame for the Pacific that Australia no longer agrees.
Stop shortwave cut to Pacific (Pacific Freedom Forum)
[...]

"As Pacific nations are going through the usual cyclone cyclone, its just such a shame that they will lose a key, credible information source to rely on,” says Miller.

“It's clear that no thought was given to the link between disaster communications and this service, or even the fact that FM is largely unreliable in bad weather and only available in urban areas."

"It's a slap in the face for the millions who've connected to Australia and to regional news through this service, because they are unlikely to be the ones targeted in the new digital content offerings being touted by ABC."
ABC decision to halt shortwave broadcasts criticised (ABC audio interview)
A decision by the ABC to halt shortwave broadcasts early next year has been criticised by a former manager of Radio Australia.

The shortwave transmissions to Asia and the Pacific will cease from January 31st next year, as alternatives such as FM and Internet become more prevalent.

Former head of Radio Australia and subsequently a consultant on international broadcasting in the Pacific, Jean Gabriel Manguy, tells Bruce Hill the decision is short sighted.

About the author

This blog is written by a shortwave radio enthusiast based in London, UK. You can follow him on Twitter at @LondonShortwave

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