The National Rural Health Alliance, the peak body for rural health in Australia, is concerned about proposed changes to the ABC’s emergency broadcasting division.
“The devastating bushfires this summer showed just how important the ABC is as an emergency broadcaster for people in rural Australia,” said CEO Dr Gabrielle O’Kane.
“People rely on the ABC for timely, accurate information about the emergency situation in their area and we don’t want to see that diminished.
“While we acknowledge that the ABC is looking to improve their emergency broadcasting capabilities by making it more locally-focused, we are concerned about any changes that would mean that people in rural areas can’t get access to this life-saving information when an emergency comes and will be keeping a close eye on these developments.”
Dr O’Kane said that media in rural Australia was under threat more than ever and that now was the time to invest more rather than less.
“The indexation freeze on the ABC is hitting hard and meaning that services are having to be cut – like the 7:45am news bulletin that many Australians wake up to.
“We do applaud the ABC for wanting to focus more on local journalists and producers outside of Sydney, but when the overall amount of money isn’t increasing it’s hard to see how this will happen without services having to be cut back.
“This also comes at a time when local newspapers are under threat. We’ve already seen News Corp having to stop printing over 100 mastheads.
She said that regional media was very important for the health of rural, regional and remote communities.
“Regional media allows communities to be better connected, but also provides a way for people to advocate for better health services and hold those in power to account when they don’t deliver fair and equitable health care.
“Regional media is also a significant employer and this is needed more than ever in rural areas, especially in the wake of COVID-19. The links between stable employment and better physical and mental health are clear.
“Also as we saw with COVID-19, regional media is an incredibly important way of delivering public health messages to communities.”