First it was the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia’s AMRAP pleading to the government for financial support, finally receiving funding to ensure its survival after the Federal Government initially failed to include it in the 2012 Federal Budget last June.
Now, as many as 37 community radio stations Australia wide are facing fears that they will no longer be able to broadcast.
The affected Melbourne stations today confirmed that without Communications Minster Stephen Conroy committing adequate funds to the Digital Radio Project, they will be at risk of not having a digital service in the future.
Community digital radio services were launched nationally in 2011 and there are currently 37 metro-wide digital radio services in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.
However, Federal Government funding cuts in the last budget have resulted in a $1.4 million shortfall which, unless reversed in the upcoming May budget, will see many digital stations axed.
Triple R, which has 14,000 subscribers and 329,000 listeners each week, and Light Melbourne which has 364,000 listeners to its FM service weekly and 158,000 listeners to its digital channel per month, are just two of the stations that could lose their digital service.Community radio plays an extremely important role, they have become an engrained part of the city’s culture and we can’t afford to lose them.” – Dave Houchin, Triple R manager
Triple R Station Manager Dave Houchin said community stations are entitled to affordable access to digital radio alongside the national and commercial broadcasting sectors.
“Community radio plays an extremely important role across the country, and Melbourne is no exception. There are nine digital radio services here that have become an engrained part of the city’s culture and we can’t afford to lose them, Mr Houchin said.
General Manager of SYN Media, Tahlia Azaria, says digital radio has so far enabled the station to expand on the training and broadcast opportunities it provides young people each year and loss of the digital service would be a backwards step.
“Before digital radio we worked with 1000 young people each year, and the past 18 months has been spent generating over $100,000 in funding to get our studios ready for digital broadcasting so we can work with even more. Minister Conroy must commit to funding the shortfall in the next budget or community digital radio services will start disappearing, and all the work we did and the new studios we now have will have been for nothing,” Ms Azaria said.
Community Broadcasting Association of Australia President and General Manager of PBS Adrian Basso said the Government’s funding shortfall for community digital services would be disastrous for media diversity, specialist programming and local and Australian content.
“Community radio provides a voice to such a broad range of people and interests in our communities that are not always represented by mainstream media outlets. It will be a sad day if digital radio loses the diversity and unique services that community radio brings to the media landscape,” Mr Basso said.“It’s the lifeblood of so many new local artists. To lose this service would undermine the chances of these local musicians developing a vital audience.” – Michael Gudinski
Commercial Radio Australia is already quoting 2021 as a possible switch-off date for analog broadcast services, so the need for community radio to make its way on to the digital platform is absolutely essential for guaranteeing the sector a broadcast future.
When AMRAP was in trouble last year The Medics, Chace Waters, and 300 other artists, radio broadcasters and industry types in their various incarnations posted messages of support for AMRAP via Facebook, emphasising the project’s importance to helping local musicians reach an audience.
Industry statesman and chairman of Mushroom Michael Gudinski said “Community radio is the lifeblood of so many new local artists. To lose this service would undermine the chances of these local musicians and songwriters developing a vital audience locally and possibly internationally.”
Now, community radio stations Australia wide are asking for support from listeners.
A quarter of all Australians listen to community radio every week and now the 37 community broadcasters with digital access, are launching a campaign today and are asking listeners and community radio supporters to sign a petition online and commit to community radio.
Visit committocommunityradio.org.au/ today to sign the petition to ensure that community radio services get the funding the need and deserve.