The communications minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, has called on SBS and National Indigenous Television (NITV) to discuss how an indigenous television service could be established as SBS's third digital channel.
This service would be a replacement for NITV's current stand-alone channel, which is currently only available via pay television, free-to-air satellite, and in some remote areas, terrestrially. NITV has long desired to be broadcast terrestrially across the country to reach a wider audience, including the majority of indigenous people who live in more densely populated areas.
Senator Conroy said that the government desired funding for indigenous broadcasting to be used most effectively and that its "aim is to provide a national platform for free-to-air delivery of predominantly Australian Indigenous content without the creation of a third national broadcaster."
While folding NITV's services into SBS would create operational efficiencies and wider distribution, it would also spell the end of a completely independent indigenous broadcaster. As a result, NITV's management are keen to ensure that the new channel would be under indigenous editorial control. NITV chairman Ken Reys believes that this is "particularly important to retaining the trust of Indigenous Australians and to the ability of the channel to contribute to the government's 'closing the gap' policy objectives."
Despite concerns about retaining indigenous editorial control, NITV management is supportive of the plan, director of content Tanya Denning saying that a free-to-air service "able to tell more of our people's stories would be a breakthrough for Indigenous Australians."
The enthusiasm for the proposed merger is not surprising, as not only would it achieve many of NITV's long-term aims such as achieving a wider distribution, but it also carries the promise of greater funding for indigenous content.
Have your say: join the forum discussion or submit a comment below.