Alice Springs-based broadcaster Imparja TV laid out stark facts to a Senate hearing this week which painted a grim economic future and the loss of local news.
Speaking at a session on regional broadcasters, CEO Alistair Feehan explained Imparja covers a landmass area of 3.6 million square kilometres east of the WA border, via satellite. It screens Nine, 9GO! and 9GEM content across 6 states.
“We don’t even see ourselves as being Regional. We call ourselves Remote,” he explained.
“If you have a look at that area, how do you actually produce a news service? You don’t. You (can’t) make it relevant. So what we do is take Nine’s News service, pull it to pieces and insert some local content.
“We experimented two years ago. We thought we would go down a user-generated news service where we would use local people in local communities to generate the stories. We had a couple of journos basically to check the validity of what we had, and produce a news service that way. We tried that with (Public Interest News Gathering funding), but we couldn’t get funding for it.”
Feehan estimated revenue was once worth $20m but now increased competition had hit the business.
“I’ve probably got a market that may be worth $12 million. I’ve got competitive opportunity from SBS, online I’ve got streamers, we’re just infiltrated at every level. So the economics don’t work.”
He added, “Right now, as it currently sits, there is not a sustainable economic for our business.”
Although Imparja was forced to close its news services, it had joined the Save Our Voices regional campaign with WIN, Prime & Southern Cross.
“This company is owned by Aboriginal people. We’re very unique in terms of broadcasting around the world. We’re a commercial broadcaster. We’re not government funded, we’re Aboriginal owned. We provide huge social platforms, we’re a not-for-profit at the same time,” he continued.
“My board respects what the other three guys are trying to do – WIN, Prime & Southern Cross- but they also sit there and say, “(Imparja is) different, (Imparja is) Aboriginal, so we want to retain their share of voice as an independent group.’
“From an industry point of view we’re looking to say ‘Something needs to change.’ So the Save Our Voices campaign from Prime and our regional partners was something that we really needed to support.”