Policy background: reviews, inquiries and discussion papers

The First Nations broadcasting and media sector has been the subject of many reviews since its commencement in the late 1970s. The reviews have investigated both the need for the sector, and the operations and effectiveness of the sector.  IRCA, as well as previous peak bodies, has been active since the early 2000s  in contributing to reviews, as have the many elders of the sector.

On this background page, you'll find a record of the reviews of the sector. The reviews provide much of the background for IRCA's policy work and are further informed through IRCA's consultation activities and policy forums.



2017 More than radio - a community asset: Social Return on Investment analyses of Indigenous Broadcasting Services

Social Ventures Australia for the Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet

The SROI examined the cultural, social and economic impact of funding as well as gauging the value of IBS to the communities they serve, beyond their role as broadcasters. Specifically, the SROI was designed to:

  • assist the Commonwealth in working with Indigenous broadcasting organisations to support them in developing the services they offer and in delivering those services more sustainably
  • help ensure IAS programs are delivering for local communities, and provide confidence the Commonwealth’s investment is well targeted, and
  • provide Indigenous broadcasters with evidence of their benefit and services beyond broadcasting.

The analysis was based on three broadcasters: PAW Media at Yuendumu NT (remote), Umeewarra at Port Augusta SA (regional) and Koori Radio at Redfern NSW (urban). Overall the analysis showed a $2.87 in cultural, social and economic value returned for each $ investment.

Read more ...

2010 Review of Australian Government Investment in the Indigenous Broadcasting and Media Sector

Office of the Arts, Dept of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Chairperson. Neville Stevens

Stevens noted that "The review of the Australian Government’s investment in the Indigenous broadcasting and media sector has confirmed the many strengths of the sector. It is staffed by passionate and committed people, it provides significant benefits to local communities and it has an important role to play in national agendas such as Closing the Gap. The implementation of the review’s recommendations would improve cohesiveness and unity among the sector, enable it to move confidently into a multi-media world and engage younger people. It would also develop improved training and governance capacity within Indigenous broadcasting and media o​rganisations."

The Review made 39 recommendations under the headings of:

  • Improving the administration of the sector
  • New Indigenous broadcasting licences
  • Building on the Indigenous Broadcasting Program
  • The future of Indigenous television
  • More effective government communications
  • Better governance
  • Integrating the reporting and performance framework
  • Building individual capacity and sector capability through employment and training
  • Enhancing Indigenous content on mainstream media
  • Preparing for future technology



2009 Review of the National Indigenous Television

Hugh Watson Consultancy for the Dept of Environment and the Arts

Terms of Reference : To examine NITV's

  • degree of compliance with terms and conditions of funding;
  • audience reach;
  • content acquisition inventory;•
  • operational capacity;
  • financial management processes and financial viability (including financial position and solvency);
  • administrative systems and governance structures;
  • employment situation — retention of staff, availability and take-up of skills development opportunities and remuneration; and
  • relationships with Indigenous broadcasters, remote producers, the sector stakeholders, sector peak bodies, national broadcasters, mainstream media, pay television providers and government departments and authorities.

2006 Indigenous Broadcasting Program Review

Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

This review acknowledged that Indigenous Broadcasting Program funding levels had remained relatively unchanged since the late 1990s and that demand had increased to more than double the allocation. However, rather than support this increased activity, the review reduced the scope of activity to radio broadcasting only, discontinuing funding for television production and other media forms. Responsibility for all video-related costs was diverted by IBP to the new $48.5m NITV program.

2005 Review into the viability of creating an Indigenous Television Broadcasting Service and arrangements for future digital transmission of such a service

Dept of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

Following a consultation period, this review put forward a range of possible models for establishing an Indigenous television broadcasting service. The review addressed options for funding / commercial models, transmission options, management options and licensing arrangements. It proposed 3 models without endorsing one model over another:

  • Establish a national Indigenous television broadcaster
  • Impose an increased Indigenous programming responsibility on SBS
  • Build on the Indigenous Community Television narrowcasting service transmitted by Imparja Television

The Department selected the first option, resulting in the cessation of ICTV for a period due to the loss of its channel to NITV. Ultimately however, NITV was provided with its own channel on the VAST satellite service, with ICTV resuming its own VAST satellite transmission. Following the 2009 review of NITV, NITV was moved into SBS. 

2001 A National Indigenous Broadcasting Service (NIBS): Broadcasting for Community Development

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

In this position paper. ATSIC recommended that a National Indigenous Broadcasting Service be established and:

  • be the recipient of all future funding for Indigenous broadcasting and deal directly with government on Indigenous broadcasting (including issues to do with airtime)
  • oversee, orchestrate and fund an Indigenous media alliance made up of existing (and future) media associations and broadcasters
  • control a national specialist production unit, but would also draw on inputs from existing Indigenous media groups
  • move to create a national radio service, and, as soon as possible thereafter, a national television service and a NIBS on-line service

ATSIC proposed that if NIBS were established over five years, costs would begin at $15.6 million in year 1 and rise to $74.4 million in year 5. It was suggested that it would also be possible, however, to build NIBS in separable, but complementary, modules; e.g. NIBS Radio, then NIBS Television, then NIBS Online.

2000 The Belonging Network: Tools for Empowerment. A feasibility study for the development of a National Indigenous Broadcasting Service

Prepared by Own Cole and Malcolm Long for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and the National Indigenous Media Association of Australia

This discussion paper identified five possible strategies for a National Indigenous Broadcasting Service, ranging from bringing Indigenous TV's needs into digital spectrum reviews, through forging an agreement with either the ABC or SBS for use of part of their national spectrum to leasing capacity from commercial broadcasters. The proposal for a National Indigenous Broadcasting Service was subsequently endorsed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. the Parliamentary Committee for Aboriginal Affairs and the Parliamentary Committee for Transport and Communications in 2002. 

2000  Submission to the Inquiry into Regional Radio House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

The House of Representatives Communications Committee inquiry was aimed at investigating the adequacy of radio services in regional and rural Australia and with  particular regard to the social benefits and influence on the public of radio broadcasting in non-metropolitan Australia in comparison to other media sectors. The ATSIC submission  set out a range of issues and benefits for First Nations people and communities. 

2000 Broadcasting. Report no 11

Productivity Commission

The inquiry stemmed from the Government's commitment under the Competition Principles Agreement to review legislation for its anti-competitive effects. The inquiry was about advising the Government on practical courses of action to improve competition, efficiency and the interests of consumers in broadcasting services. The Government asked the Commission to pay particular attention to balancing the social, cultural and economic dimensions of the public interest and have due regard to the phenomenon of technological convergence to the extent that it may impact upon broadcasting markets.

Recommendations 8.5 and 8.6 recognised the uniqueness of the sector and the need for separate licensing.

  • A  new  licence  category  for  Indigenous  broadcasters  should  be  created, with appropriate conditions relating to advertising.
  • Spectrum should  be  reserved  for  Indigenous  broadcasters  to  provide  a  primary service for Indigenous communities, where appropriate.
Submissions to the Broadcasting Inquiry
1999 Indigenous Communications Australia (ICA): a proposal to meet the broadcasting needs of Australia's Indigenous peoples . Submission to the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into Broadcasting

National Indigenous Media Association of Australia (NIMAA)

This submission provided support for NIMAA’s submission to the Commission for “the establishment of a national broadcasting authority, Indigenous Communications Australia (ICA), to unite all Indigenous media”. Specifically it proposed that:

  • a statutory authority be established to provide broadcasting services to Indigenous Australians
  • this body be called Indigenous Communications Australia (ICA); and
  • ICA include both National Indigenous Television (NITV) and National Indigenous Radio (NIR).
1999 From Message Stick to Multi-Media in the New Millennium: Indigenous Communications AustraliaSubmission to the Productivity Commission's Inquiry into Broadcasting

National Indigenous Media Association of Australia (NIMAA)

This submission was developed in response to the Productivity Commission’s request for an Indigenous contribution to Commission’s review of the Broadcasting Act, the report of which was published in 2000. The submission recommended 3 overarching strategies:

  • The establishment of a national communications authority, ‘Indigenous Communications Australia’ (ICA) which will unite all Indigenous media;
  • The immediate granting of radio broadcasting licenses in Sydney and Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart to give Indigenous Australians a national voice; and
  • The proclamation of an Indigenous Communications Australia Act to acknowledge Indigenous broadcasting as the 3rd national public broadcaster in Australia
1999 Rationale for an Indigenous Broadcasting Service

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

This submission was developed in response to the Productivity Commission’s request for an Indigenous contribution to Commission’s review of the Broadcasting Act, the report of which was published in 2000. This submission proposed an independent statutory authority - Indigenous Communications Australia - along with 3 options for Indigenous radio and TV broadcasting.  The submission was based on 3 premises:

  • Indigenous Australians have a right to consultation and self determination in their own affairs
  • Australians generally recognise that the Indigenous peoples have been greatly disadvantaged and accept that special consideration is required; and
  • an effective broadcasting infrastructure is crucial to redressing their disadvantage



1998 Digital Dreaming: a national review of Indigenous media and communications

Indigenous Management Australia for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission

The Digital Dreaming report recommended new policy based on the following key principles:

  • First level of service.
  • Investment in long-term sustainability.
  • Staged strategic planning.
  • Whole of organisation approach.
  • Business and marketing plans.
  • Convergence of content production, delivery systems, and service providers.
  • Government department interaction with Indigenous media.
  • Commercial diversification.
  • Economic independence.

Unfortunately, this significant report was largely ignored by government policy makers and funding agencies, leaving the Industry to continue to struggle with outdated policy amidst the rapidly changing technological environment. Instead of allocating additional resources, funding under IBP actually dropped over the next two years.

1998 National Report on the Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme

Neil Turner

This report examined the existing status and future needs of the Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme.  It described local radio and television broadcast facilities in 101 remote Aboriginal and Islander communities around Australia and made a series of recommendations related to:

  • Licensing
  • Funding
  • Management
  • Training

1993 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander broadcasting policy review report and draft policy statement

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, Infrastructure Branch

ATSIC released the first Indigenous broadcasting policy with 5 key areas:

  • Equity
  • Cultural restoration, preservation and growth
  • Efficiency of communication
  • Employment
  • Enhance self-image

1992 Evaluation of broadcasting and communications sub-program

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Office of Evaluation and Audit

This report provided an evaluation of the Broadcasting for Remote Aboriginal Communities Scheme (BRACS) based on responses to questionnaires and interviews with ATSIC regional staff; stresses need for national media policies and strategies and a co-ordination of funding at national and regional level; priorities and strategies needed for development and support of BRACS.


1991 Discussion Paper on Indigenous Broadcasting Policy

Dept of Aboriginal Affairs

This paper encouraged funding for Indigenous media in recognition of its social functions. The paper acknowledged the recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the 1991 Report of the National Inquiry into Racist Violence both of which encouraged funding for Aboriginal controlled media for self-representation, self-empowerment and challenging negative stereotypes in mainstream media. 



1989 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Broadcasting Policy Review

Sue PatonDept of Aboriginal Affairs

This report proposed the establishment of a discrete Indigenous broadcasting sector with increased resourcing, as well as the creation of Aboriginal community radio licenses. Unfortunately, the Department of Transport and Communications opposed the report, insisting that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders should work within existing structures.  This held back the development of an Indigenous managed broadcasting industry.

1984 Out of the Silent Land. Report of the Task Force in Aboriginal and Islander Broadcasting and Communications

Chairman: Eric Wilmot 

The purpose of the Task Force was to consider the development of policies and strategies for Aboriginal broadcasting. The specific context was the launch of AUSSAT and concerns about detrimental impact on language, culture and lifestyle in remote communities. In recommending the provision of broadcasting services in remote communities the policy objectives were aimed at the:

  • Development of policies to enable broadcasting and related telecommunication services for all First Nations people with particular focus on remote communities who did not have access
  • Encouragement of the development of First Nations public broadcasting
  • Discussion of the means for linking indigenous broadcasting with the ABC with respect to production, training, use of facilities, networks, and development of special programs.

The report’s 55 recommendations were largely focussed on the needs of remote Indigenous people and included:

  • the coordinated introduction of satellite radio and television reception and re-broadcasting facilities to remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
  • the provision of facilities to allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to control programmes broadcast in their communities.
  • the encouragement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander broadcasting in radio and television production.

This resulted in the BRACS and the beginning of the remote Indigenous broadcasting sector. Policy and funding continued to focus on the remote sector until the early 1990s.