The federal opposition has called on National Indigenous Television and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) to cancel its plans to scrap the award-winning NITV National News, stating it plays a vital role in Aboriginal communities.
It was revealed in New Matilda yesterday that NITV would cancel the nightly news service in favour of a re-vamped Awaken program, currently headed by prominent Aboriginal journalist Stan Grant.
The scrapping would make NITV the only free-to-air station in the country without a daily news service.
In a joint statement, shadow communications spokesperson Jason Clare and shadow Indigenous affairs spokesperson Shayne Newmann said they were “concerned” by the reports.
“Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull have ripped $53.7 million out of the SBS budget since the election, and now it seems that the only national Aboriginal television news service in the country will become the latest victim of this lie,” Mr Clare and Mr Neumann said in the joint statement.
An SBS spokesperson would not confirm whether the news service would be cut when asked by New Matilda, but said there were “no plans to reduce the amount of NITV news programming”.
“What we are doing is looking at ways to ensure that our Indigenous news programming reflects audience consumption patterns and enables more Australians to access the news, right across the nation and on the platforms available to them,” the spokesperson said.
But the cuts to not only NITV National News, but the long-running Living Black, which SBS offloaded to NITV after a wide-ranging re-structure last year, has caused ruptures within the Indigenous television station, New Matilda understands.
The Stevens Review into Indigenous broadcasting, handed down in 2011, focused heavily on NITV and recommended a re-structuring of the service before government committed to renewed funding. It followed a year of uncertainty over the future of the channel.
Then Communications minister, Stephen Conroy finally announced the channel would merge with SBS, handing the multicultural broadcaster an additional $63 million over four years in the 2012-13 budget.
Mr Neumann and Mr Clare stressed the importance the news service plays within Aboriginal communities across the nation.
“NITV National News plays an important role in raising the issues, telling the stories, and celebrating the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“A well-resourced Indigenous media sector is vital for the Australian media landscape and Labor calls on SBS and NITV to rule out the cancellation of this important program.”
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