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Communication life line? ABC emergency broadcasting in rural/regional Australia
journal contributionposted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Julie FreemanJulie Freeman, Kristy HessKristy Hess, Lisa Waller
As an emergency broadcast provider, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has a perceived duty to ensure communities are informed during natural disasters through its radio network. This obligation is tested by issues of diversity and distance across rural and regional Australia as well as the structural and resourcing changes taking place within the ABC. This article examines public submissions to a Parliamentary Bill to amend the ABC’s Charter with greater provisions for rural/regional media coverage. The analysis reveals two key concerns regarding emergency radio broadcasting: access inequities including issues with digital replacement technologies; and how the frequency, timeliness, and accuracy of emergency news suffer from decreasing ‘localness’. Upon reviewing the submissions, we argue that the ABC’s Charter and Memorandums of Understanding with state/territory emergency service agencies are currently insufficient in meeting the media access and content needs of rural and regional communities during disasters. We conclude that the proposed Charter amendments would help the ABC to better account for how local contexts shape the effectiveness of its emergency broadcasting.