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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (20 February) . . Page.. 425 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

We received a letter in October, and it was a strange response. Basically, the letter from Prime attempted to validate the closure of the news service with a reminder of their sponsorship of the SouthCare rescue helicopter and the Brumbies. I think providing advertising for corporate sponsors is in no way enough in terms of justifying the community service obligations of a media outlet whose primary function obviously is to provide information to the community about what is going on in the community. Local news is clearly very important. So I was very disappointed in that letter from Prime.

We all know that Capital's news service has closed since then. Basically, Prime and Capital seem to have taken the same approach as the banks do to their community service obligations-"It's not profitable. We need to look after our shareholders."

The media is an important part of democracy because it gives people an opportunity to understand what is going on and hopefully engage and participate. This is a very fundamental and important part of democracy. It is important that free-to-air broadcasters be required to meet a minimum standard of this community service by providing us with local news and current affairs programs.

I am glad that the government is making a submission to the Australian Broadcasting Authority. I hope it is a very strong submission that goes to the heart of the value and power of media in this country. It is important to ensure that we have a media which gives a diverse range of views about what is happening in our society.

Obviously there is a problem in Australia with media ownership. Although the situation is worse in other countries, it is not acceptable here. Right around the world very powerful men in the corporate sector have lobbying power and incredible influence on governments of various persuasions, and this is a very dangerous thing for democracy. I would like to see this government's submission go to those deeper questions.

MR CORNWELL (4.45): I am interested in the second part of the motion and, whilst I support it, I must say the inquiry into regional news services seems to indicate more of an interest by politicians to get their message across than perhaps providing to people the service that is required. Nevertheless, I accept the point. However, I would like to see the submission to the inquiry extended to include regional services, and I would like to identify those services.

Some years ago a gentleman, who I regret is now dead, living in Merimbula on the far south coast pointed out to me that the commercial television stations all advertised companies that operated out of Wollongong. Wollongong is a long way from Merimbula, Pambula, Eden and Bega. Indeed, the people of the south-east region of Australia look to Canberra for the services that they cannot obtain in their own towns. They might need specialist doctors, et cetera.

I thought this was a reasonable argument. I wrote to the then Chief Minister and she in turn thought it was a reasonable argument. I wrote to the people concerned, the television networks, and can you imagine what happened? These people, who continually talk about service, knocked us back out of hand. Anybody from Bega or Merimbula who travels to Wollongong to do their shopping must be some sort of a masochist. Indeed, one could argue that the southern limit of the Wollongong service area would probably be about Nowra.

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