The ABC stuck with its controversial plan to axe short-wave radio services relied upon by some people in the bush, but has unveiled a last-minute package of enhanced support measures for affected listeners amid mounting criticism of its treatment of rural audiences.
“The ABC acknowledges a small audience living and working in the Northern Territory favour short-wave radio when accessing ABC services,” the statement said.
It promised to expand an existing “information awareness program” with the addition of easier access to information packs about alternative services, one-on-one telephone support and “how-to” videos to guide listeners to catch up on programs using podcasts.
“The National Broadband Network satellite services ‘Sky Muster’ will also assist those in remote Australia, by providing access to all ABC online and digital content,” the statement said.
“The ABC will also supply (donate) a VAST satellite system unit to all Royal Flying Doctor Service bases and 4WD Radio club bases in the affected region, allowing them to rebroadcast emergency or warning messages as required.”
Those things are unlikely to placate pastoralists, who usually live and work far from 4WD clubs and cannot realistically mount large VAST (viewer access satellite television) systems on their vehicles. Cattle station owners and staff continue to complain bitterly about the poor quality of NBN satellite services, where one connection typically offering less than 100GB of downloads per month may be shared among a dozen or more people for both personal and business purposes. In practice, they say, this makes all ABC digital content inaccessible in the bush.