REMOTE COMMERCIAL TELEVISION SERVICE
The Remote Commercial Television Service (RCTS) emerged following the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s 1984 Satellite Program Services inquiry into how the proposed launch of the first AUSSAT satellite could best serve Australia’s communication needs. The inquiry recommended the licensing of four Remote Commercial Television Services with satellite footprints covering remote and regional Australia, although only three of the licences offered were taken up.
A key concern expressed by Indigenous communities during licence hearings between 1985 and 1986 was that unregulated English-language television programs beaming into remote Indigenous communities would cause further cultural and linguistic damage, particularly to children. By the early 1990s, it was estimated that just 20 of the 250 languages spoken in Australia at the time of the British invasion were being actively transmitted to and being used by children. Two of the RCTS licences—Imparja Television and the northeast zone licensee, QTV—were allocated, with provisions calling for the production of appropriate levels of ‘Aboriginal programming’. The non-binding conditions produced a limited response, even from the Indigenous-owned Imparja Television. Despite its best intentions, Imparja’s economic struggles have meant it has been unable to produce significant levels of Indigenous programming since its launch in 1988.
Although all RCTS licensees have struggled financially since their inception, Imparja has suffered more than most, primarily because of a refusal by the Northern Territory government— unlike its state counterparts in Queensland and Western Australia—to cover the station’s soaring satellite transponder costs. The federal government has been supporting Imparja in this regard since the late 1980s.
REF: H. Molnar and M. Meadows, Songlines to Satellites (2001).