Imagining Rural Audiences in Remote Western Australia


  • Lelia Green School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia



Media, rurality, radio, satellite broadcasting, Australia


In 1979, Australia’s then-Communication Minister Tony Staley commented that the introduction of satellite communications to the bush would “dispel the distance – mental as well as geographical – between urban and regional dwellers, between the haves and the have-nots in a communication society” (Staley 1979: 2225, 2228-9). In saying this, Staley imagined a marginalised and disadvantaged audience of “have-nots”, paying for their isolation in terms of their mental distance from the networked communications of the core.

This paper uses ethnographic audience studies surveys and interviews (1986-9) to examine the validity of Staley’s imaginations in terms of four communication technologies: the telephone, broadcast radio, 2-way radio and the satellite. The notion of a mental difference is highly problematic for the remote audience. Inso-far as a perception of lack and of difference is accepted, it is taken to reflect the perspective and the product of the urban policy-maker.

Far from accepting the “distance” promulgated from the core, remote audiences see such statements as indicating an ignorance of the complexity and sophistication of communications in an environment where the stakes are higher and the options fewer. This is not to say that remote people were not keen to acquire satellite services – they were – it is to say that when they imagined such services it was in terms of equity and interconnections, rather than the “dispelling of distance”.


ABS (2010). 3218.0 Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2008-9, Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics,

Anderson, Benedict (1991 [1983]): Imagined Communities, Verso, London.

Conroy, Stephen (2008): Government Announces Panel of Experts to Assess National Broadband Network Proposals, Media Release 11 March,

Conroy, Stephen (2009): Tasmania First to Receive Superfast Broadband, Joint Media Release 8 April,

DBCDE (2009): National Broadband Network: 21st Century Broadband, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy,

Gillard, Patricia, Amanda Bow & Karen Wale (1994): A Major Line to the Outside World from the House: Defining the Significance of Telecommunications in Social Contexts, RMIT, Melbourne.

Glaser, Barney & Anselm Strauss (1967): The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research, Aldine, Chicago.

Green, Lelia (1988): “Television and Other Frills”: Public Demands of Broadcast Services in the Satellite Age, WACAE & Media Information Australia, Perth.

Green, Lelia (1998):(Not) Using the Remote Commercial Television Service to Dispel Distance in Rural and Remote Western Australia”, Media International Australia, no. 88, August, 25–38.

Green, Lelia (1998a): Communications and the Construction of Community: Consuming the Remote Commercial Television Service in Western Australia, [unpublished PhD thesis] Murdoch, WA: Murdoch University

Green, Lelia (1999): “Focusing upon Interview Methodologies”, Australian Journal of Communication, 26:2, 35–46.

Green, Lelia (2003): “Attempting to Ground Ethnographic Theory and Practice”, Australian Journal of Communication, 30:2, 133–145.

Green, Lelia (2004): “Wanting it Both Ways? Homogenisation or Differentiation – the Western Australian periphery talks back to the core about satellite broadcasting”, Off the Shelf or From the Ground up? ICTs and Cultural Marginalization, Homogenization and Hybridization: Refereed Conference Proceedings, Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication Conference (CATaC’04), Karlstad, Sweden, 27 June—1 July,

Green, Lelia (2005): “Scanning the Satellite Signal in Remote Western Australia” [feature article], M/C: A journal of Media and Culture, 8:4, “Scan”,

Hearn, Gregory N., Tom Mandeville & David Anthony (1997): The Communication Superhighway: Social and Economic Change in the Digital Age, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

IPA (2008): Submission on [sic] Senate Select Committee on the National Broadband Network, Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, 19 August 2008,

Miller, Daniel (1987): “Towards a Theory of Consumption” (chapter 10), Material Culture and Mass Consumption, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 178–217.

Moores, Shaun (1996): Satellite Television and Everyday Life: Articulating Technology, Acamedia Research Monograph 18, University of Luton Press, UK.

Paltridge, Sam (1990): “AUSSAT and remote area television”, Media Information Australia, no. 58, November, AFTRS, Sydney, 136–146.

Regional TV WA (1984): Remote Commercial Television Service, Western Australia, Regional Television WA Pty Ltd, Perth.

Rheingold, Howard (1993/2000): The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. A version also at

Silverstone, Roger, Eric Hirsch & David Morley (1992): “Information and Communication Technologies in the Moral Economy of the Household”, Roger Silverstone & Eric Hirsch (eds):, Consuming Technologies: Media and Information in Domestic Spaces, London: Routledge, 15–31.

Skelton, P. (1989): “Institutional and Policy Framework”, Australian Satellites: Policy Options for the Future, CIRCIT, Melbourne, 51–56.

Staley, T. (1979): Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives Hansard, AGPS, Canberra, 18 October, 2225, 2228-9, quoted in Hazelhurst, C. 1990, ”The Dawn of the Satellite Era”, Media Information Australia, no. 58, November, AFTRS, Sydney, 9–22.

Turner, Graeme (1996): British Cultural Studies: an Introduction, 2nd edn, Routledge, London.

WA Govt. (1990): Review of Remote Area Television Services, Office of Communications, Perth, November.




How to Cite

Green, L. (2010) “Imagining Rural Audiences in Remote Western Australia”, Culture Unbound, 2(2), pp. 131–152. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.1029131.



Theme: Rural Media Spaces