ABA Conference told Community Broadcasters are better at Aussie content

The President of Sydney community station FBi, Cassandra Wilkinson, says community broadcasters are much better at delivering local content than commercial operators.

Speaking during a panel session at the Australian Broadcasting Authority’s Canberra conference, Wilkinson was responding to Mark Carnegie, who argued the case for a 4th television licence to be sold to his group (see other story).

Carnegie was championing Australian content, but Wilkinson told the audience community radio and tv broadcasters are doing a better job at achieving local content than any commercial broadcaster could.

“To [commercial broadcasters] Australian content is a secondary activity behind making a profit. To us it is a primary activity – we are passionate about it.”

She told the conference FBi has 200,000 listeners and 200 volunteers and has generated “a community of like minded people” who support the station.

“We don’t receive recurrent funding from government, our premise is that Australians will support us by sponsoring us and listening… FBi is a unique experiment and we think we can make enough money out of Australian content to do what we have to do and pay some key staff.”

She says if the station had waited for digital radio, they would have been disappointed. Being on a mainstream high power FM radio frequency is important to “drive revenue” for the station, but FBi combines that with the internet, which “drives participation.”

The community radio business model Wilkinson describes is being duplicated in newly licenced stations in other cities such as Fresh Fm in Adelaide, Groove Fm in Perth and Edge Radio in Hobart. But Wilkinson believes there are some older stations which are not dynamic enough for the new community radio business she is describing:

“Community radio is poised for leaps in professionalism and content,” she says, but is not convinced some older stations are ready for the next generation of change.

She suggests that stations which are not performing should have their licences reviewed: “There’s a good case for reviewing the ‘licence in perpetuity’ regime in the community licence sector.”

ABA Conference delegates during the lunch break