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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 424 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

Commercial television stations have access to an exclusive part of the broadcasting spectrum, which is public property. Those stations receive large incomes from advertising, some of which comes from Canberra businesses. The community has a right to expect that it should receive a community benefit in return-that is, licensees should return something to the audiences from which they get their advertising revenue.

Exactly what these stations are now providing to the Canberra community by way of community support is a moot question. I think it has always been understood that when the Commonwealth introduced aggregation the licensees had to demonstrate support for the local community. The clearest demonstration of community support is a local newsroom that tells us what is happening in our city.

The aim of aggregation is to give regional audiences access to the full range of commercial programs enjoyed in the major cities, while retaining local news coverage. This obviously has not worked. Clearly, some of the commercial television stations are not meeting their community obligations, and this needs to be addressed by the Commonwealth government as a matter of priority.

These closures have not just happened in Canberra. Services have been cut in several other regional areas in Queensland and the Northern Territory, including Cairns, Darwin, Townsville and central Australian local services. If the Commonwealth government means what it says about supporting regional Australia then it should ensure that commercial television licensees provide news services that meet the needs of the area they are serving.

Mr Speaker, the government is currently drafting a submission to the inquiry by the Australian Broadcasting Authority into regional news services. We have been granted an extension of time to 1 March to make a submission. In our submission we will raise our deep concern about the loss of two of our three local news services and what this means to the Canberra community. We will raise the serious issue of commercial television stations not meeting their community obligations. We will represent the serious concerns of all Canberrans about the loss of diversity in news sources, and the lack of local issues in the news services offered by Sydney news providers. We will make the point that not only Canberra but the rest of the Australian capital region is missing out on desperately needed services. I fully support the motion moved today and look forward to its unanimous support.

MS TUCKER (4.41): Mr Speaker, I do not have a problem with Mr Humphries' amendment, although I was considering putting one myself. I must say that I think it is a slightly unnecessary amendment, but I would not die in a ditch over it. I do not think we need to note in the motion what everyone else has done. However, it is all right if Mr Humphries wants to do that.

Katie Gallagher has raised a good issue today. It is of grave concern that we have lost two of our local news services. In July last year I responded to the closure of the Prime local news service by writing to Mr Chris O'Connell and raising my concerns about the possible effects on the coverage of local events, and in particular the close scrutiny of local government and business activity.

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