2WEB Bourke bashing against a brick wall: Sue Smith on ABA decision

Outback Radio 2WEB will not be allowed to extend its service area after ‘strong objections’ from rivals, who would also like to have a say in the station’s format.

The ABA decided not to extend the licence area to include the township of Cunnamulla, Queensland.

2WEB Manager Sue Smith has told radioinfo: “ I am disappointed at the ABA’s decision, however not surprised. We also expect the ABA to decline our application for an FM translator in Cobar.

“Understandably, the ABA received several submissions from Commercial broadcasters in these areas ie: 4VL, 2DU/Zoo FM, and Rebel and Breeze FM. Rebel and Breeze – situated in Queensland and South Australia – have Commercial FM licences to service these areas funded under the “Black Spot” program, neither of whom are operational as yet.

“There was also an objection from Cobar Community Radio… this is another long and interesting story.

“I guess the biggest disappointment of all is the suggestion from Rebel and Breeze to the ABA ‘that they liaise with RRN, 4VL and CRA on formulating appropriate licence conditions on 2WEB.”

The suggestion that rivals should have a say in content on a station like 2WEB is of concern to the station and to many in the community radio sector. There have been suggestions of format restrictions such as:

* The licensee must ensure that no greater than 15% of all music aired hourly between 5am and 9pm daily appears on any ARIA Top 50 chart since 1958, including any alternative mixes of cover versions of the same song.

* The licensee will not broadcast syndicated programming where that program is also syndicated to an Australian commercial radio station. This includes but is not restricted to news bulletins, sport, countdowns and information segments.

The tiny Bourke station, heard on 585 on the AM band, has serviced a huge geographic area of north western NSW for many years and is seen as the underdog in the ABA’s recent decision, a victim of its own success which has prompted its rivals to use the ABA processes to limit its ability to service the region.

“2WEB has serviced this remote area for more than twenty six years, an area no commercial broadcaster has shown an interest in – in fact Mr Jowett owner of the Rebel/Breeze licence has held a commercial AM licence for western NSW since the early 90’s and still hasn’t got it up and running,” says Sue Smith, who apologises for sounding cynical, but says she is sick of bashing her head against a brick wall.

“Residents of our vast outback area are poorly served by media, most only have ABC and 2WEB Radio, and our TV other than ABC and SBS comes from Seven Central and Imparja, both out of Darwin. I personally, and I would suggest the majority of our listeners feel, that we in the western division of NSW are the forgotten people of this state, perhaps we should get the state boundaries moved and become Queenslanders, at least then we will have more appropriate TV.”

Acting ABA Chair Lyn Maddock has told radioinfo: “Strong objections to the proposal were raised in submissions from the licensees of 4VL Charleville and the Rebel Radio Network. Cunnamulla is 228 km from Bourke across a state border, reducing the practicality of Cunnamulla residents participating in the operations of 2WEB.”

In making its decision, the ABA also considered the current relatively large licence area of 2WEB. The changes were proposed in June as part of a variation to the Licence Area Plan, and were open for public comment until recently.

Other Changes included in the variation to the licence area plan are the making available of FM channel capacity for community radio service 2CUZ Bourke at Goodooga, Lightning Ridge, Walgett and Weilmoringle, all within the 2CUZ licence area, and the removal of channel capacity for an unallocated open narrowcasting service at Walgett. The changes in relation to 2CUZ have no impact on listeners as the licensee has applied for, and been issued, licences to retransmit its service at the above four locations ahead of this formal change to the licence area plan.