Webdiary - Independent, Ethical, Accountable and Transparent
header_02 home about login header_06
sidebar-top content-top

Community broadcasters keep fingers crossed during lead up to Federal Budget

Community broadcasters keep fingers crossed during lead up to Federal Budget
by Chris Zajko

In light of the current economic climate, the upcoming 2009/10 Federal Budget has the community broadcasting sector understandably worried that they won’t see as much funding as they may need to get through these tough times.

Community broadcasters have always been drastically under-funded but have usually managed to scrape by on sponsorship, donations and subscriptions. Now that these avenues are drying up due to the global financial crisis (GFC), it is more important than ever that the Government makes a real investment in local economies and communities by meeting the sector’s requests.

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia’s (CBAA) general manager, Michele Bawden discusses the impact of the current economic situation: “Certainly I would expect that sponsorship income would decrease during this climate. Even in Sydney it has always been tough to attract sponsorship income, but imagine if you were in a town like Wagga Wagga and you rely on the local businesses as your sponsors. These businesses will be struggling and the first thing to go will be their advertising on the local stations.” She goes on to point out that “A combination of state and federal government grants makes up only 4.6% of the average community station’s income.”

In a proposal submitted to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy last October, the community broadcasting sector’s national peak bodies have requested that just over $14 million be allocated to the sector as a part of the 2009/10 budget.

According to Bawden, “past government funding has not been enough.”

If the government believes that community broadcasting is a vital information source for the community then there is some obligation upon them to provide suitable funding.

According to a March press release from the CBAA, “Support has not kept pace with growth – since the last major funding review in 1996/7 over 200 new services have been established, a 53% increase in station numbers.”

So why not just cut back on the number of stations’ Is there even a market for the huge number of community broadcasters in Australia’ Well, in a word, yes. There is definitely a market. According to mid-2008 Community Radio National Listener Survey conducted by McNair Ingenuity Research, the number of Australians (aged 15+) listening to community radio in an average month has risen from 45% in 2004 to 57% (9,562,000 people) in 2008.

Bawden refers to the sector as “a kind of public service” and understandably so, as there are 23,000 unpaid volunteers that work in community broadcasting who put a lot of work into contributing back to the community through their involvement.

The time has come for government to put their money where their mouth is and help cushion the blow of the GFC on the invaluable service community broadcasters provide.

In a time where the government will be inundated with requests for financial support, there is no doubt that many will be left wanting. We can only urge the government to recognise the importance of the community broadcasting sector as a training ground for the Australian media industry, as a source for localised and alternative information and news and as a tool for uniting of diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

The government must take this opportunity to step up support from community broadcasters. Australian media’s cultural diversity is at stake.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Oh, oh, no money?

Well, it seems like the federal government changed its mind on providing badly needed funding for community television, and possibly community radio.  But I would suspect that the radio sector will eventually be awarded their $14 million soon.  Congratulations Community Radio.

Fiona: Welcome to Webdiary, Sylvesti.

I agree!

Chris, I liked that statistic about the rise of people using community radio, because I think it demonstrates exactly what you're talking about. I don't know too much about community radio but from your piece I think it's clear that the rising usership should be coupled with better support from government.

You'd think with all the money being spent at the moment, governments could pick up the slack a little more...

Hear, hear

Yes, like Alga I go along with it. Just last night, surrounded by the normal insufferable  clog of gunk on free to air, I quickly surfed to my community TV station for a quick check,  for an excellent documentary about Outback WA.

An essential service

A good thread. Community broadcasting gets little support from government and other media, yet it's now an essential part of many communities. Especially country people, who normally have very little media choice, if any. There's one problem with community broadcasting, they can be very discriminatory, parochial and dictatorial, like lot's of common interest groups. Which can mean they can tend to develop a single direction approach and neglect the variety in community needs.

I think funding should be directed more towards country community broadcasting, especially with the coming digital TV era. Local radio and TV allows country business to get themselves out there for much less cost than the current two or three corporate commercial TV and radio networks. Just like newspapers, without community broadcasting, we end up with controlled media. Newspapers are already in decline, so country community broadcasting will fill the gap from global advertising via the Internet, to local TV and radio beamed into houses and businesses. It's also a big supporter of local talent, community organisations and groups, allowing them access to the community they can't possibly get with commercial media.

A lesson should be also learned from the recent Victorian bushfires and other natural disasters, community broadcasting is all a community can rely upon for accurate and up to date information. Corporate networks are all relayed, they have no idea what's really happening and have no links or understanding with communities other than fly in reporters. When you think about it, community broadcasting is not only an essential service, but an integral part of any sensible national, local disaster and defence plan.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
© 2005-2011, Webdiary Pty Ltd
Disclaimer: This site is home to many debates, and the views expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the site editors.
Contributors submit comments on their own responsibility: if you believe that a comment is incorrect or offensive in any way,
please submit a comment to that effect and we will make corrections or deletions as necessary.
Margo Kingston Photo © Elaine Campaner

Recent Comments

David Roffey: {whimper} in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 2 days ago
Jenny Hume: So long mate in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 2 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Reds (under beds?) in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 4 days ago
Justin Obodie: Why not, with a bang? in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 4 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Dear Albatross in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 4 days ago
Michael Talbot-Wilson: Good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 4 days ago
Fiona Reynolds: Goodnight and good luck in Not with a bang ... 13 weeks 6 days ago
Margo Kingston: bye, babe in Not with a bang ... 14 weeks 2 days ago