Community radio looks to be one of the losers in the 2016-17 Federal Budget, released on 3 May. The sector stands to lose $1.4 million through a continuation of a pause on indexation on the Community Broadcasting Program. The program, which administers Commonwealth funding for more than 400 community radio stations around Australia, has been allocated $15.4 million. This compares with $16.8 million in last year’s Budget.
The $1.4 million p.a. facilitated the digital broadcasting of community radio in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. Following its withdrawal, stations in these cities are likely to be limited to AM and FM bands.
“Without community radio, the opportunities to share local stories and news and hear local voices will be incredibly limited,” said Jon Bisset, CEO of the CBAA. “So too will be the chance to build engaged, resilient and vibrant communities through fair and meaningful access to broadcast media.”
Bisset attacked the budget decision, saying, “Potentially, it excludes community broadcasters from a digital broadcasting future and threatens the whole community broadcasting sector’s role as a key pillar in Australian broadcasting.”
Every week, more than five million Australians across the nation listen to community radio. It enables the articulation of varied stories and independent music, which often struggle for mainstream attention.
Community radio is renowned as being a strong supporter of Australian, and especially local, music content. “One of the guiding principles of the community broadcasting sector is our commitment to support and develop local music,” says CBAA’s website. “Community broadcasters are renowned for supporting new, local, independent and particularly Australian music.”
“For over 40 years, Australian Governments have been committed to community radio standing alongside commercial and national radio services on available free-to-air broadcast platforms. Today, we see that position under threat,” added Mr Bisset.
“The Federal Budget does not properly reflect the value the government places on these media services to contribute to public interest outcomes and media diversity, generate high levels of local and specialist content, and provide opportunities for participation in free-to-air media.”
Mr Bisset also pointed out that, in contrast, commercial radio and television broadcasters are soon to benefit from reductions in licence fees. Meanwhile, planned changes to media ownership laws further threaten diversity.
The CBAA encourages supporters to join the Keep the Community in Your Radio campaign, by signing an online petition, which can be found here.
By contrast public broadcasters ABC and SBS come out in a roughly neutral position in the Federal Budget.