Just when you thought the latest world trends couldn’t reach the farthest reaches of our big country, along comes Imparja TV to make it a reality for our “outback” population. Just how did this come about? This article will help you to understand how the marvel of modern technology is helping communities stay in touch with the latest the world has to offer.
Imagine life in a remote part of Australia. Can you?
Just to give you an idea, places identified as being “very remote” in Queensland include Bedourie, Birdsville, Burketown – and that’s just the B’s. As someone who’s visited almost every town in Outback Queensland and conducted mobile phone interviews perched on an ant mound outside Cloncurry, I can tell you how deeply moving it is when “3G” or “4G” pops up in the corner of your handset screen and , conversely, how strangely unsettling it is to move through long tracts of country seeing “NO SERVICE” displayed.
Imagine life with no contact with the outside world. Our first peoples survived that way for tens of thousands of years, as did white settlers for decades before the miracle of the telegraph and radio waves. 200 years on and, amazingly, there are still corners of Australia devoid of internet or telephone lines outside of a 20km radius of the nearest “town”. This is where 2-way radio and satellite provide the only contact with other humans and it’s a life most of us will never know.
That’s it! Hold it there – now don’t move!
In the early days of TV up to about about the 90s you could buy cute little antennae that would sit on the TV set and very often they’d have be wiggled around the place to get a decent image. (“hold your mouth just in the right way and hang out the window with it and stay there, love….”). Now, you’d need a really, really big and very expensive antennae to pick up a TV signal in the outback!
Back then, aside from basic communication, residents of far-flung remote areas couldn’t begin to entertain the luxury of non-essential communication and entertainment like TV shows and movies being transmitted. Even to this day 4/5 of Australia is serviced by the Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service! (No popping off to see the doc for a sore big toe, then.…..) just to give you an idea of how concentrated our urban populations really are. For most Australians living on those over-populated coastal edges of this land, such isolation is something we cannot fathom.
The old Imparja building utilised from 1977 – 2008
Living in the biggest 10% in the world!
Over 80 percent of Terra Australia is described as rangelands or outback, and only 10% of the population living away from the urban coastal areas. Providing media services to those 10% is daunting indeed. Over 74% of Queensland comprises the outback that we know or want to get to know – the mystical emptiness, endless blue skies and starry nights, the stuff that most people dream of visiting one day. It can start as little as 100km west of the coast, or be deep in the heart of desert country. Our vast, rugged continent, whilst essentially a first-world country, is still faced with enormous communication challenges in a world where access to the information highway and being part of the digital age is second-nature for many global citizens. Reaching those places is where Imparja Television Pty Ltd is the jewel in the crown of Australian remote broadcasting.
Imparja’s free-to-air licence area in blue
Government, Bureaucracy, Vision and three crusaders.
After the first commercial television licences for remote areas were granted in 1985 to the Golden West Network, which broadcast to Western Australia, and QSTV in north-eastern Australia, the Federal Minister for Communications set about conducting hearings into the allocation of these licenses. After much political, legal and commercial wrangling and in-fighting, and a protracted Australian Broadcasting Tribunal hearing process, funding from the Australian Bicentennial Authority and the Aboriginal Development Commission finally secured the successful allocation of a licence to the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) and by October 1987 the new station was being built. Founded by Freda Glynn, John Macumba and Philip Batty, Imparja was born.
In another first, Freda Glynn was the chair of Imparja TV and was during her 10 year tenure the only female chair of a television network in the world! Imparja became the first Aboriginal member of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations and the now-defunct Regional Television Association, both dominant organisations at the time.
From its humble early reach of just 62000 people, Imparja now boasts a reach of over one million resident viewers, 3 million tourist viewers and over 200,000 viewers in terrestrial black spots – all across a whopping 3.6 million square kilometres. The station’s headquarters is in a purpose-built facility in Alice Springs whose original tribe and language is Arrernte (pron. AH-RUN-TA).
The new purpose built digital facility located in Alice Springs that was completed in
Imparja….isn’t that a type of antelope?
That’s an Impala. Imparja translates from the Arrernte word “Impatje” which means tracks or footprints”. The station refers to its range as its “footprint” and seeks to service people wherever they may live and, in this country, that’s more than a million dinosaur footprints indeed! The importance of Imparja TV to its viewers cannot be overstated. Over 200 very remote Aboriginal communities consisting of 75000 homes are serviced by the station, which also provides 14 Indigenous radio services – for FREE.
Giving back to the community
The station has been a major sponsor of many indigenous events in its range, having gifted over $400,000.00 to several community projects, naming just a few:
- The Clontarf Foundation Sporting and Educational programs
- Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, Darwin and Mount Isa Hospitals – Aesthetic improvements and equipment purchase
- Central Australian Aboriginal Alcohol Program Unit
- Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Men’s Health program
- Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation sporting facility for town camp children
- Central Australian Youth LinkUp Services – Alpurrurulam Substance Misuse Prevention and Diversion initiative
- Tiwi Islands Shire Council – “Your Chance to say NO Thanks” DV
The uniquely indiginenous children’s pre-school program, Yamba’s Playtime, starring Yamba the Honeyant, is much-loved by indigenous and non-indigenous audiences alike.
With improvement to indigenous health a major concern both on both federal and state level, Imparja seeks to reach into indigenous homes by producing and supporting a healthy living campaign through its Yamba’s Roadshow which, since 2011, has taken health “infotainment” all over Queensland and the Northern Territory as well as urban centres such as Adelaide and Canberra. The program has been much-lauded and has been a finalist in the Deadly Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Health.
Jacinta and Yamba the Honeyant
The last of the Independents
Imparja TV may be rightly proud of its achievements in a relatively short time. It is the last truly independent TV station in Australia, not beholden to any large corporations or their profit-driven advertising excesses. It is one of the great success stories of indigenous enterprise, providing full-time employment to 60 people at its headquarters in Alice Springs.
- Imparja Television is a central part of the media landscape, particularly in the Northern Territory and Queensland, its largest viewer base.
- Bringing to its viewers a large selection of Nine Network shows and sports programs, its programming ensures that our remote residents remain connected to the rest of Australia.
- Imparja broadcasts five stations from its Alice Springs location, Imparja North (SD), Imparja South (SD), Go! North (SD), Go! South (SD) and Gem (HD).
Be sure to call in to Imparja TV headquarters on your next visit to Alice Springs – send us a pic of yourself on Facebook and join the “footprint” family.
By Sandra Beynon ©