Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 388 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
Ms Gallagher's motion goes to the heart of the problem that is crossing not only this territory, but Australia, as local news services are shut down. I hope the government's submission to the inquiry will be strong, and demand that we do have access to different points of view, and a broad range of local news services. Thank you.
MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (12.37): I also rise to support the thrust of the motion that has been brought by Ms Gallagher. We were all, no doubt, distressed to see the closure of the Prime Television newsroom in the middle of last year. I can recall when aggregation of television markets occurred, back in 1989. I recall it very well because it took place just a few weeks after the first Legislative Assembly was sworn in. Suddenly, what had been more or less a one or two-horse town-in fact it was a one-horse town, because I think only Channel 10 broadcast news at that time-became a three-horse town with both Prime and WIN also broadcasting. By that time, as I recall, ABC TV news had already shut up shop.
That was a very significant expansion of television news services to the ACT, and I suppose I imagined, as many other people would have, that that new regime was here to stay. I imagined that, having allowed these new broadcasters entry into the market under the new arrangements, the ACT would remain a well-serviced market. I think we were aware that even communities much smaller than the ACT, places such as Darwin, enjoyed a level of service which, at that time at least, was better than our own, so we felt that this was a likely permanent feature on the media landscape.
The last 12 months have been a very rude reminder to all of us that these things are subject to market forces, and they do not stay the same indefinitely. We then had the situation in which Prime closed its newsroom in about the middle of the year, and the Ten newsroom was closed later in the year, I think in November. That was shocking, Mr Speaker, because Channel 10 was the longstanding commercial broadcaster in the ACT. It had been here decades before the other commercial stations. Its newsroom was the only one, at one stage, broadcasting TV news to the ACT, and it was regarded, for a long period of time, as the leading broadcaster of television news.
Mr Speaker, shock is one thing: action is quite another. We need to make sure that action is taken to prevent these markets, the ACT market in particular, being treated in this way in the future. I believe that when a broadcaster is given the very considerable privilege of broadcasting into a particular community, certain obligations to the local community should be attached to that privilege, subject to certain conditions. In particular, in the case of a TV broadcaster, these obligations should be to broadcast television news, and perhaps even, in certain circumstances, current affairs programs and other programs reflecting local content.
I do not need to mention the concerns that many have expressed about the increasing globalisation of the media, the fact that, in so many countries of the world, the digest of broadcasting is a digest of American-made programs, and that there is a strong need to make sure that diversity, in particular local content, is preserved to a certain degree in all of our mediums.
I believe that here is an example of where we can draw a line in the sand. There is no doubt whatever that the ACT should have at least two TV news broadcasters, and in my view it should have a news broadcast for each television station that broadcasts here. We