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Shortwave radio cuts risk NT lives: Labor

AAP logoAAP 19/12/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Two federal Labor MPs have demanded the national broadcaster reverse a decision to switch off its radio shortwave service in the Northern Territory, which they say could be life threatening.

Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and member for Lingiari Warren Snowdon have expressed "deep disappointment" about the ABC's plan to cut the transmitters from the end of January.

They insist it is a crucial platform which allows listeners in indigenous communities, pastoral stations and other remote areas to access radio during emergencies.

"In times of natural disaster - such as flood, cyclones or fire - it can quite literally mean the difference between life and death," they said in a joint statement on Monday.

"ABC management must stop treating Territorians in remote areas like second-class citizens."

The ABC will still broadcast via FM and AM frequencies, the viewer access satellite television (VAST) service and online.

"To claim VAST satellite and mobile phone technology will fill the gap created is simply not true because these services are not mobile. As we were told today, they are only now trialling mobile antennas," Ms McCarthy and Mr Snowdon said.

"ABC management appears convinced that it is more important to improve digital services for larger population centres, than to ensure basic service provision in the bush."

A group of indigenous rangers told the ABC last week that the service is the only way of getting the weather reports that flag incoming cyclones.

Michael Mason, ABC's Director of Radio, said the shortwave technology was outdated and served a very limited audience.

"The ABC is seeking efficiencies and will instead service this audience through modern technology," he said.

Mr Mason said the savings would be reinvested in a more robust FM transmitter network and an expansion of ABC's digital content offerings.

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