The prime minister of Vanuatu has warned the ABC it needs to restore its shortwave radio service in the Pacific, in a submission to a Senate inquiry.
Source:
AAP
7 Apr 2017 - 10:18 AM  UPDATED 7 Apr 2017 - 10:18 AM

Removing the ABC's shortwave radio service in the Pacific could cost lives, the prime minister of Vanuatu has warned a Senate committee.

Charlot Salwai insists the service is vital during major natural disasters, in his submission to a Senate inquiry.

"Removing Radio Australia shortwave to Vanuatu could cost many, many lives in the likelihood of a major natural disaster like Tropical Cyclone Pam in 2015," he writes.

During Cylone Pam, when other forms of digital media and FM services were damaged, communities relied on Radio Australia, Mr Salwai said.

"It is undoubtedly the case that Radio Australia's shortwave service helped save ... lives."

The Vanuatu PM said the $2 million cost of providing the service was very small compared with the huge sums Australia provides to Pacific countries after such events.

He also denied Radio Australia was out-dated, and urged senators to support Nick Xenophon's private member's bill to restore the service.

"This strange decision by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to end shortwave services to our region seems at odds with the recently strongly-stated goals of the Australian Government to help improve disaster preparedness and risk management in our region," he said.

The ABC announced in December it would be shutting off the service in the Northern Territory, and other parts of the Pacific at the end of January.

When grilled by senators in February, Managing Director Michelle Guthrie insisted the ABC would still broadcast via FM and AM frequencies, the viewer access satellite television (VAST) service and online.

She said the public broadcaster was still meeting its charter obligations, citing examples of similar decisions made abroad including the BBC.

Ms Guthrie said the ABC had only been contacted by 15 people who relied on shortwave radio with concerns about the decision.

Senator Xenophon's bill would require the broadcaster to reverse its decision.