Eastgrove residents are banging the table to regain SBS and ABC television reception.
Up to 460 homes in the suburb have been without reception since August 6 thanks to suspected damage to a television tower on Park Road.
Labor Senator for NSW and duty senator for Hume, Deb O'Neill, met with some of the residents in Goulburn on Wednesday.
"I'm here to respond to constituents who have not only been ignored by the Member for Hume (Angus Taylor) but have been offended by the response of his office when they voiced concerns," she told The Post.
Senator O'Neill repeated a resident's claim that a staff member had made a derogatory comment about the ABC. Mr Taylor's office has flatly denied this.
She said Eastgrove was just one of 80 communities around Australia that had been "deprived" of SBS and ABC coverage due to funding cuts.
"I'm here because residents have been stonewalled by government," Senator O'Neill said.
"Ministers are happy to turn up and collect their pay cheques but but when they're confronted by anything that requires action, they go missing."
She claimed Communications Minister Paul Fletcher had known about the issue for two months but had done nothing.
Asked what she would do, Senator O'Neill said she planned to write to Mr Fletcher, including a community petition, and act as an advocate in Parliament.
Mr Taylor said a number of constituents had raised the Eastgrove transmission failure with him.
"I am very concerned about this interruption to the ABC and SBS service. People are entitled to be able to receive the ABC and SBS," he said in a statement.
"I've made representations to Paul Fletcher and it is my understanding he is holding discussions with the relevant parties.
"I've also personally written to the ABC and SBS urging them to do whatever is necessary to bring about a speedy solution to the problem."
On Thursday, Mr Taylor said Mr Fletcher had asked the ABC and SBS to work with Regional Broadcasting Australia Holdings (RBAH) to restore services and resolve the wider issue of funding for maintenance and repair for transmission towers.
Resident Ann Faraday has taken up the issue with Mr Taylor, Mr Fletcher, Goulburn MP Wendy Tuckerman and the council. Another resident has gathered a 200 to 300-signature petition in support of a tower upgrade.
Mrs Faraday said she relied on the ABC and SBS for information and preferred them to commercial channels.
"We are on analogue and we've been told that in order to access them we'll need a VAST (Viewer Access Satellite Television) system, which costs around $1300. People don't have that sort of money," she told The Post.
"Even then, we won't get all the offshoot channels."
Senator O'Neill said VAST costs were higher in more remote areas and people shouldn't have to pay for the free to air access.
Residents said transmission failed the day after Prime undertook repairs to the tower in early August.
The sticking point is who pays for repairs now. Regional Broadcast Australia Holdings (RBAH) owned the tower project and was responsible for ongoing maintenance, the council advised residents.
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The council funded $40,000 of the tower's cost while RBAH funded most of the balance. Some was drawn from community contributions raised for an earlier tower at Baxters, which was struck by lightning in 2010.
RBAH advised that while it had funded ABC and SBS services at Eastgrove since 2011, declining commercial revenue meant it could no longer maintain or replace equipment to guarantee their continuation from RBAH sites.
A spokesperson said ABC and SBS had declined a May offer to continue maintenance at under a commercial agreement. As such, transmission could no longer be guaranteed.
Mayor Bob Kirk said the council had advocated on residents' behalf. However the repairs were not its responsibility.
"ABC and SBS say they don't receive enough money but they are not meeting their responsibility to provide a free to air service. I find that quite amazing," he said.
"...We can only ask the responsible people to repair and maintain it."
Senator O'Neill said public access to information during coronavirus and bushfires via ABC and SBS was vital.
"It makes me embarrassed as a private citizen that public broadcasters is so robbed of funding they're unable to fund 80 towers," she said.
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