Representatives from community radio stations Australia-wide have marked today as a day of action, calling on support for their Commit To Community Radio campaign, designed to raise awareness for the government’s $1.4 million shortfall in helping the community radio sector make the switch to digital.

As previously reported, as many as 37 community radio stations across the country are facing the end of their broadcasting tenure, and are looking down the barrel of missing out on a digital service in the future without Communications Minster Stephen Conroy committing adequate funds to the Digital Radio Project

Despite figures demonstrating a quarter of all Australians listen to community radio every week, funding cuts in the last budget resulted in a $1.4 million gap, which unless covered or reversed in the upcoming May budget will see many digital stations axed.

Of the 37 stations under threat are the likes of Melbourne’s 3RRR, 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; as well as the likes of Sydney’s FBi, 4EB Global in Brisbane, RPH in Adelaide, and Perth’s Noongar Radio – just to name a few.

To help raise awareness to community radio’s plight, the Commit To Community Radio campaign has today pushed their online petition, which is siting at over 19,000 signatures at the time of publication, to help alert the Federal Government to account for the costs of the transition for community radio from analogue to digital in its budget.The Commit To Community Radio campaign has today pushed their online petition, which is siting at over 19,000 signatures.

Speaking with The Music about the campaign, Adrian Basso, President of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, said they weren’t worried that their call to action would be dwarfed by the government’s unveiling today of the new National Cultural Policy.

“Yesterday we had 8,000 people on the website and today we’ve got 18,000,” said Mr Basso. “It’s going off on social media.”

The CBAA President also pointed out the government’s budget reforms include plans to give TV stations a license rebate, which saves free to air television an estimated $134 million to convert to digital broadcasting; “It’s worth noting that our request is only $1.4 million”, said Mr. Bassso, noting that community radio representatives are looking to be involved in the media reform discussions with Minister Conroy.

“We’ve had a meeting with the minister’s office, with one of the advisors, early on. There’s also individual stations who have been in contact with their local MPs. We hope to talk a bit more with the minister,” said Mr Basso, noting that the Commit To Community Radio petition “is a public campaign to display the grassroots of community radio.”

The media reform plan placed an emphasis on media diversity and today Basso said, “Certainly community radio plays a part in that diversity… we cover local issues that other media often don’t.”

The call to arms follows AMRAP’s plea to the government for financial support, and finally receiving funding to ensure its survival after the Federal Government initially failed to include it in the 2012 Federal Budget last June. At the time, it rallied musicians and industry figures across the nation to its cause,  including industry statesman and chairman of Mushroom, Michael Gudinski. “Community radio is the lifeblood of so many new local artists,” he said at the time.

“Certainly community radio plays a part in that diversity… we cover local issues that other media often don’t.” – Adrian Basso, Community Broadcasting Association of Australia

“To lose this service would undermine the chances of these local musicians and songwriters developing a vital audience locally and possibly internationally.”

Triple R Station Manager Dave Houchin echoed Gudinski’s sentiments in light of the $1.4 million shortfall, saying that 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.

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.

You can Commit To Community Radio by heading to the website and signing the petition here.

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