Deputy Nationals Leader and Agriculture Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie says rural and regional Australians deserve access to the public broadcaster, quality regional journalism and local content.

“From the dulcet tones of Jim Maxwell during the cricket coverage while on the road, to its dedicated coverage of agriculture on The Country Hour, as well as its role during natural disasters, the ABC is a crucial and much-loved institution in the regions,” Senator McKenzie said.

“We need regional Australians at the ABC telling regional Australian stories that reflect their concerns, narratives, interests and visions.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Measures) Bill 2019 introduced to Parliament this week is an important step forward in improving rural and regional access and representation in the ABC.

It comes at a time when regional news services are under pressure, with some commercial operators choosing to pull out of regional markets and abandon their audiences.

“This is an issue I raised as a backbencher, at a time when there had been a consistent and significant reduction of ABC regional services over a long period,” Senator McKenzie said. “My private Senator’s Bill Australian Broadcasting Corporation Amendment (Rural and Regional Advocacy) Bill 2015 addressed the very question of what the ABC’s mandate in regional Australia should be. As a public broadcaster, the ABC should provide quality regional services and venture into territory that does not solely rely on ratings.”

“The digital age should be expanding choice, not creating local media blackspots.”

This new bill recognises that in many rural and regional areas the ABC is the only media service to provide emergency service notifications, community engagement, news and weather.

The Nationals in Government believe the ABC should have a legislated obligation to provide coverage to rural and regional Australia, and to ensure regional Australia has a say in changes to its vital services.

“These are significant changes and I’m proud to be part of a Government seeking to make a difference in rural and regional communities,” Senator McKenzie said.