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Joanna Gash asks Government to absorb cost of free to air TV across Australia

February 26, 2009
Joanna Gash asks Government to absorb cost of  free to air TV across Australia


Deputy Speaker,

I rise today to bring to the Houses attention a matter that is vitally important to many thousands of Australians.

Imparja is allegedly, a free to air satellite television service, one of a number of providers that make up the Remote Area Broadcast Service or RABS.

Imparja is predominantly beamed over Northern Australia and part of its service is in support of the domestic tourism industry.

It is also relied upon by travellers who do not have access to the usual UHF/VHF signals.

With the current global economic downturn, our domestic tourism industry is being seen as a vital economic component that can help to keep the wolves at bay.

The domestic tourism industry, in that part of Australia are the road tourists.

Imparja through its satellite service also provided a service for those tens of thousands of Australians that travel the length and breadth of Australia.

They are often referred to as the grey nomads, but more and more younger people and their families are opting to take touring holidays in Australia.

Families are the future for the industry. They are also the biggest camping group.

This is only good news for an economy under threat.

On the 29th of September, 2008- Imparja decided to no longer provide access to its satellite service to those viewers located outside the normal UHF/VHF reception areas.

This decision means that the road tourists who relied on bulletins and information through that medium, do not have an alternative product.

During a fact finding tour last as the Shadow Spokes person on Roads Tourism, the importance of real time information for road travellers was made apparent to me.

Whilst I toured mainly in reasonably populated areas through South Eastern Australia, the situation is very much different in our less populated north.

As of the 5th of December, 2008- Imparja television advised that it would once again continue to offer its service to those viewers that are in out of area reception areas and travellers all be it with a $55 fee.

For those in out of reception areas a one off fee of $55 is payable and for those travelling around Australia a yearly fee of $55 is payable.

To receive the service only new viewers in out of reception areas are liable for this fee.

However all viewers that are travellers are liable for the yearly $55 fee.

Imparja television is supposed to be a free to air television channel and in its nature free to air television is FREE OF CHARGE.

I have two concerns at this state of affairs. Firstly, why is there a charge on a supposed free to air service?

Joanna and the Road Testing road tourism Jayco
Joanna and the Road Testing road tourism Jayco

And secondly, given the governments intensity at stimulating our local economy (to the tune of a possible $200 billion of debt), why has this an anti stimulatory measure been allowed?

The Government must intervene to absorb this contradictory and counter productive fee for those travelling Australians that I know from my own experiences rely so heavily on Imparja television and other satellite service stations.

Imparja is just an excuse to open the door to charges for free services across the board.

The Minister is obvious in washing his hands by throwing the blame to commercial considerations.

I am naturally worried that once the dust settles this may become common practice among other free to air television stations around Australia.

The Government must ensure that free to air television is actually free and absorb this unacceptable fee, for a number of very good reasons.

Joanna Gash MP

Federal Member for Gilmore

Editors Note: For the official document click here

Here are links to a series of features written by Joanna Gash as she towed a Jayco caravan through an extended Australian touring fact-finding tour:

Jim (Balranald Caravan Park) and Joanna
Jim (Balranald Caravan Park) and Joanna