NATIONAL INDIGENOUS TELEVISION
National Indigenous Television (NITV) commenced broadcasting in Sydney in July 2007. The NITV charter stated that the service would inform, educate and entertain ‘Indigenous and other audiences about Australia’s Indigenous people and customs and issues of interest to Indigenous Australians’. The original vision for NITV, as put forward by the Indigenous broadcasting sector during the scoping period, was that it be a third public broadcaster—a statutory authority to sit alongside the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), available to a national audience. The result was closer to a content aggregator model than a national broadcaster. NITV was nonetheless a significant initiative in the history of Australian media, representing the largest single investment in Indigenous television.
Under the Howard Coalition government, NITV was originally funded for $48.5 million over four years, which was extended in 2010–11 by another $15.2 million (half the annual budgets for Canada’s Aboriginal People’s Television Network (A$36 million) and Maori Television in New Zealand (A$32 million)). Unfortunately, the government did not make free-to-air spectrum available for NITV to commence as a truly national channel. NITV was instead distributed using existing Indigenous broadcasting infrastructure, including Imparja Television’s second satellite channel and Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Services (RIBS) transmitters in remote areas.
A remote Indigenous television service, Indigenous Community Television (ICTV), which had been using Imparja’s satellite channel since 2001, was forced to vacate the satellite channel to make way for NITV. The displacement of ICTV for NITV caused significant tension within the Indigenous broadcasting sector. A review of NITV in 2009, known as the Watson Review, found that NITV had not adequately provided for remote Indigenous programming. ICTV relaunched as an independent entity late that year, using the internet (Indigitube) and the Westlink satellite service at weekends.
NITV managed to extend its own potential audience reach through negotiations with satellite and pay television networks, as well as a digital television test transmission in Sydney from 2008 to 2010. The station was also rebroadcast on analogue in Alice Springs, Mount Isa and Bourke. Aside from NITV News, the station’s only in-house production, NITV relied on the acquisition of existing content, as well as commissioned programming from independent producers.
The long-term future of NITV was considered in the 2010 Indigenous Media and Broadcasting Review (the Stevens Review). The report recommended that NITV needed to better meet the expectations of its stakeholders—a veiled criticism of its failure to provide access for RIBS-produced programming. In 2012, Labor Senator Stephen Conroy announced that NITV would become part of SBS’s suite of channels, and that there would be Indigenous representation on the SBS board. Funding was then made available to Imparja to enable it to again host the ICTV channel on the VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television) platform. Since moving to SBS, NITV has made significant efforts to increase remote programming.
REF: E. Rennie and D. Featherstone, ‘The Potential Diversity of Things We Call TV: Indigenous Community Television, Self-determination and NITV’, MIA, 129 (2008).