Melbourne community broadcaster 3WRB Stereo974 has shut down, citing a lack of available funding and support to continue operations.
Founded in 1978, the station operated in North Sunshine for two decades before moving to Geelong Rd, Brooklyn where it continued to broadcast until its went dark earlier this month, on January 16th.
The frequency may eventually be made available to other community broadcasters for temporary broadcasts.
Raymond Chow, Chinese language Broadcaster at Stereo974, says a general meeting of the station was told: “the radio station was under various financial constraints and a planned redevelopment of their radio station site meant they couldn’t survive the costs of a relocation “
Stereo 974 has been an important ethnic broadcaster with over 71 hours of ethnic programming each week and Mr Chow says there are concerns that Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities will be severely disadvantaged by the immediate closure of the station.
He says: “Community radio commenced in the ’70s and … Ethnic broadcasting became an important part of many community radio stations as numerous ethnic broadcasters provided thousands of hours of broadcasting around this nation in the mornings, evenings, every day or at weekends, so that the emerging migrant communities and the more established ones were kept informed about important issues in their own diverse languages.
“Stereo974 with its focused diverse ethnic broadcasting has provided an important service in broadcasting emergency information, council information and local activities to the CALD communities. Its death is a detrimental blow to the CALD communities in Melbourne.”
The federal government has supported multicultural broadcasting grants through the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF) and Mr Chow says, “a reform by CBF in grant allocation in 2017 to 2019 has led to a drastic drop of ethnic grants for many radio stations.
“Some radio stations with revenue heavily dependent on ethnic grant support had no way to find financial support from the business sector (and) very few mainstream businesses would be keen to target advertising at ethnic minorities.”
radioinfo has contacted the CBF for comment. CEO Ian Stanistreet says the level of CBF grant funding received by the station has changed over recent years, however fluctuations in the level of funding support received by a particular grantee are not uncommon in a competitive merit-based grant process.
Mr Stanistreet has told radioinfo: “In the current financial year to date almost $3.9 million has been paid or committed as grants in support of ethnic community broadcasting. Stations receiving ethnic funding support also have access to the general funding pool available to all eligible applicants.
“While the community radio sector is characterised by low resource levels, stations are largely self-funding principally through business sponsorship, fundraising, listener support and grants. We join with others in thinking that it’s a great shame that the station was unable to continue in the face of a forced relocation and decline in key income sources.” See more in our related report here.
The ACMA has told radioinfo: “Western Radio Broadcasters Inc (the licensee of 97.4 MHz in the FM band in Melbourne West) has advised the ACMA that it has surrendered its community broadcasting licence.
“The ACMA will consider the future use of this spectrum. If we determine that it should be used for temporary community broadcasting services, those who have expressed an interest in using this or similar spectrum for community broadcasting will be informed of the temporary community broadcasting licence application process.”