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A reprieve for shortwave?

by
February 16, 2017

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon earlier this week introduced a bill to parliament, which if passed would force the ABC to bring back shortwave broadcasts.

The shortwave broadcast station which beamed Radio Australia to the Pacific from Shepparton could be coming back online.

South Australian senator Nick Xenophon earlier this week introduced a bill to parliament, which if passed would force the ABC to bring back shortwave broadcasts.

The ABC shut down international shortwave broadcasting from its Shepparton facility last month, at the same time it stopped domestic shortwave broadcasts in the Northern Territory.

Senator Xenophon criticised the decision, which was made by ABC management and not the Federal Government, labelling it shortsighted.

‘‘The response to the shortwave cut-off demonstrates the woeful inadequacy of the ABC’s consultation process,’’ Senator Xenophon said.

‘‘Not only have we heard from many rural Australians concerned about the decision, our near neighbours such as Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea have also voiced serious concerns.’’

When he introduced the bill to the senate, Senator Xenophon said the ending of shortwave diminished the voice of Australia in the important Pacific region.

‘‘The cost-cutting decision will save $1.9million a year — a tiny fraction of the ABC’s $1billion-plus annual budget,’’ he said.

Former radio engineer at the Shepparton shortwave station Gary Baker had lobbied various politicians to avoid the shutdown and was glad Senator Xenophon was pushing the government on the issue.

But he warned that if the shutdown was reversed, it could be difficult to get the broadcasts back online.

He said many of the technical staff who worked at the site had lost their jobs and shortwave engineering was a highly specialised field.

‘‘Staffing will be the biggest issue. You can’t just grab someone off the street and get them to run Radio Australia,’’ Mr Baker said.

‘‘It is a bit like going to a GP and saying ‘right, now you are a brain surgeon’.’’

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