NITV chief executive Pat Turner responds to a recent INSIDEFILM article about a government-backed review, which said the broadcaster needs to repair relationships with indigenous media groups and improve governance standards.

In response to your article dated April 19, 2010 at 12.41pm, I wanted to ensure you had the facts available. I am sorry I could not speak with you before you published, however, I do appreciate this opportunity to put forward my perspective.

I am very proud of the success of NITV to date. On an extremely limited budget by industry standards, NITV has grown to be the 6th largest television service by reach in just less than three years on air.

You referred to governance of NITV being raised in the review done by Dr Hugh Watson on behalf of our funding department DEWHA.

Please note that the review conducted by Dr Hugh Watson was undertaken, as the department confirmed to me, as “an end of program review”. NITV was funded by the former Howard government, from monies it received from the sale of Telstra, with $48 million over four years, which expires June 30, 2010.

NITV commenced representations about its continuity and funding requirements to the federal government two years ago. The Department advised that the review would need to be undertaken first. NITV welcomed the review and co-operated fully with it. We wanted it done as a matter of urgency so as not to delay consideration of our continuity.

In my first meeting with Dr Hugh Watson, I raised the issue of governance and stakeholder management as the two most important areas NITV needed to address. I can also confirm to you that the then Chairperson and the current Chairperson also raised these matters in their first meetings with Dr Watson.

NITV’s initial constitution allowed for a 12 member board with a mix of foundation members and appointed experts. All foundation members represented Indigenous media interests.

A stakeholder board would always present challenges from day one. Given the then Minister, Senator Coonan, had approved the constitution and the business plan for NITV to commence after incorporation on December 1, 2006. The constitution enabled this issue to be redressed as foundation members either resigned or retired their terms on the NITV board.

The NITV board fully supported the change to the composition and size of the board. The amendments to the NITV constitution were put before the 2009 AGM held on November 22 and were fully endorsed by the members.

NITV’s board now numbers nine in total with five elected by the members and four experts who are appointed by the board. This ensures the board has available the necessary mix of skills to guide the business of NITV. The amended NITV constitution is on the website at

In relation to stakeholder management NITV has always and will continue, to enter into negotiations with the ICTV group, with positive intentions. NITV, with $2 million on the table, negotiated with ICTV for some 12 months before ICTV itself withdrew from the negotiations. This was most regrettable.

Commercial difficulties arose during negotiations. Copyright issues, NITV’s funding agreement obligations with the federal government, technical standards for transmission, rights clearances, and timeframes for delivery amongst numerous other factors led to this unfortunate outcome.

NITV currently has two development agreements in place with the remote producers with a view to establishing longer term business relationships between all parties. NITV always stands ready to negotiate the commissioning of content from all Indigenous producers including those in the remote area media organisations.

NITV must meet audience expectations in terms on its on air programming insofar as its budget enables it to.

By all our Indigenous producers working closely with NITV we can grow awareness in the wider community of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and culture. We highlight the primacy of place of the First Australians in the national imagination and by doing so, significantly contribute to nation building and the national identity.

Pat Turner

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