As part of the Federal Government’s recent budget announcements, The Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield has revealed the Government will increase community radio funding by $6.1m over the next two years.
In the 2017-2018 period, $1.9m is allocated to digital radio broadcasting, including a planned expansion for digital services in Hobart, Canberra, Darwin and the Gold Coast. In the following financial year an additional $2m will be used on digital radio and a further $2.2m will be allocated as a one off investment to support stations affected by the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s long-term strategy for the 803-960 MHz radio frequency band.
“[Community radio is] an incredibly important part of the Australian media landscape,” Senator Fifield told 89.9 LightFM presenters Lucy and Kel. “The great thing about it is it is just so close to the people. it’s responsive and there is an incredible variety in the stations and the community has a great sense of ownership.”
The news has been welcomed by the community-broadcasting sector. Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) CEO Jon Bisset states this additional funding support will secure the sector’s involvement in digital broadcasting across this period. Bisset also re-affirmed that the CBAA will continue working with the Government to ensure the long-term sustainability of community radio.
“The additional funding for digital radio comes at a critical period for the sector and will assist to maintain metropolitan digital radio services and the planned extension of digital radio to Canberra, Darwin and Hobart. The sector will need this increased level of funding on an ongoing basis to support regional expansion of digital radio and we appreciate the Government’s commitment to supporting these next steps. Community services are an essential part of the mix of broadcast services available to Australian communities.”
The CBAA has reported record national listenership in the community radio sector in 2017, with 5.3 million (or 1 in 4) Australians tuning in every week. There are over 450 community radio services active across the country.
Digital radio provides an alternative to AM and FM as a free-to-air radio transmission platform. Digital radio does this using DAB+ technology, which accounts for 27% of community radio listeners. There are currently 36 digital community radio stations and over 40 services broadcasting across five capital cities – Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. This is in line with the Government’s plans to have a staged roll out of digital radio services.
The Federal Government also announced major reforms to Australia’s broader free-to-air broadcasting sector, which you can read about here.