The ABC of ignoring audience needs

As most people who use short wave radio are aware, ABC Australia pulled all of their short wave services on the 31st January 2017. For those of us around the world who have enjoyed ABC broadcasts over the years, this at least, disappointing and at most, well, disappointing. They had a good range of interesting programs, from in-depth reports to music programs and light comedy. Some of us, me included, also used their Alice Springs and Tennent Creek low-power transmissions as a pointer to how the lower Tropical bands were performing. If you could get Alice Springs on 4835, then you knew the 60m band was holding up well and worth an explore.

But let us now turn our attention to the ranchers and ranch workers who live around the remote areas of Alice Springs and Tennent Creek. These places are literally, out in the middle of nowhere, with ranch sizes being calculated in square miles and not acres. Also the truckers making the long-haul trips via outback roads through some of the most inhospitable country known to man. All these people rely on good communications supplied locally for such items as weather reports/forecasting and anything that could be pertinent from local news. This sort of information can only be delivered successfully over these terrains using short wave. A network of FM stations would not give the coverage over the difficult topology encountered in these areas. A satellite system would have similar problems, and relies on having a ground station at a ranch with all the power requirements to receive such transmissions. If a rancher is fixing a fence several tens of miles from home will not be able to receive these transmissions.

We also need to turn to the needs of those people living on the plethora of Pacific islands which ABC also used to serve using their short wave transmissions. Some of the governments of Micronesia are not, at all times, stable, so up to date news and weather forecast/reports of a timely nature cannot necessarily be relied upon. Indeed, a few years ago, the government of Fiji closed down the local internet so any information supplied by that route was unavailable. This is where the short wave transmissions from Australia were so important through this period.

For all the non-recreational uses mentioned above, these transmissions can literally be the difference between life and death. ABC has mentioned savings as the reason for this move, but I saw a report where this amounts to only 1.9 million for the Northern Territories. But surely this cost is going to be swallowed up by having to supply content delivery via either satellite or expanding FM services.

Fortunately, a lot of debate is currently going on in Australia from community groups, MP’s in government and Union heads. If ABC thought that no-one would notice then they must be severely disappointed already with all sections of Australian society seemingly being up in arms over the decision. I think this will roll on for quite a while and ABC will either be completely bloody-minded or come to some sort of agreement. Maybe the Australian government may step in to save the day. All I know, its not going away in a hurry!

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