As we say goodbye to Regional Television Month, we forward on to our next themed month, GC Shines Month, where our focus switches again from Brisbane, this time to our fast growing neighbour to the south, the Gold Coast, which has become a major production centre, in the last twenty years, all due to the development of Warner Roadshow Studios at Oxenford, which also spawned the Warner Bros Movie World theme park (which opened in 1991).
But all growth has it's teething problems. The plans for aggregation in Northern NSW in 1992 included a section of Queensland, from Beenleigh, down to the state border, which was part of the licence area of NRTV, and also was served by the Brisbane commercials via UHF, and had been since the 1980's. As a result the Gold Coast is served by six commercial stations, three metro, three aggregated. But the digital revolution, combined with the rapid growth of the Coast (which has sparked interest from the NRL, A-League and AFL, all wanting to establish teams), has caused a curve ball, where the rapidly increasing GC national sport sides don't get preference to Brisbane sides in Brisbane-based news bulletins, and when matches are telecast, and there is a lack of local GC news produced by the majority of the broadcasters, while the minority give good coverage.
My idea, is that by the time Northern NSW switches off analogue, ACMA should have plans in place for a GC "mini metro" market, with three commercial digital stations (on the former NBN,NRTV and Prime frequencies) , with the Brisbane commercials to stop telecasting on the GC when Brisbane switches off analogue in 2013, and the GC stations affiliation, would have to be defined, clearly including carriage of all multichannels, and a minimum amount of news/local content per night, that is higher than the current regional market standard (to have a minimum of one full local half-hour bulletin, a night, where as most regional stations in aggregated areas provide 5 minute updates and retransmit capital city bulletins.)
Why does it have to be extensive? Any prospective GC licensee would realise their audience is coming home later, and missing either a Brisbane-run GC bulletin, the NBN hour-long with GC inserts, or the Brisbane commercials 6pm bulletins. Advertisers would benefit too, with a more local approach to ad sales, instead of the current, five-way advertising split that GC advertisers face, with a third of all Gold Coast TV ad sales currently, going to PBL, thanks to their ownership of NBN and QTQ Brisbane's Gold Coast feed.
Digital takeup would also be boosted, as guarantees on local content, would encourage, not hinder apartment building and hotel owners alike to upgrade their coaxial systems, that serve hotel rooms, and apartments with clear access to the current six channel system, as well as various Foxtel/Austar channels which run from a central hub in the individual buildings. A development of a three commercial channel service for the Gold Coast could also result in the introduction of a community/tourist channel, possibly run by the Gold Coast City Council, to help sell the city's products and attractions to visitors and locals alike.
It is now up to the growing urban mass, to petition the federal government, for what they need. Three commercial channels, in digital, for the growing Gold Coast viewership. I have heard projections of a million residents in a few years time, meaning the strain on Brisbane stations wallets to maintain 2nd feeds, without sacrificing Brisbane's quality of programming. This solution, gives back what GC viewers lost with aggregation, that is, variety, with a local voice.