“It’s important that the community radio sector has certainty,” said Communications Minister Mitch Fifield, announcing additional funding for community digital radio on Light FM Melbourne this morning.
“We recognise it is important that we make funding provision to ensure that this important work that community radio does can be supported and that the transition to digital radio can be supported,” he told Light FM presenters Lucy and Kel.
“Keep doing the fantastic work that you do… when government ministers talk about grants of money, this isn’t the government’s money, this is the community’s money… that your listeners have paid in tax… we are simply the conduit to direct money on behalf of the community for good purposes.”
Asked how important community radio is, Fifield said: “It’s an incredibly important part of the Australian media landscape… the great thing about it is it is just so close to the people. it’s responsive and there is an incredible variety in the stations and the community has a great sense of ownership.”
The government will allocate new funding of $6.1 million over two years for the community radio sector to support digital radio services and one-off spectrum reorganisation costs for analog radio services.
The funding, announced as part of the Federal Government’s Budget 2017-18, is in addition to $15 million per annum already provided through the Community Broadcasting Program.
Of the funding, $1.9 million will be allocated in 2017-18 and $2 million in 2018-19 to assist the community radio sector with the costs of digital radio broadcasting, including for the planned expansion of digital radio to permanent services in Hobart, Canberra, Darwin and the Gold Coast.
The Government will allocate the remaining $2.2 million funding in 2017-18 to assist community radio broadcasters affected by the implementation of the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s long term strategy for the 803-960MHz band. “This additional one-off investment will support the ongoing sustainability of some stations to ensure continued delivery of community radio services to their audiences.”
The community broadcasting sector has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to increase sector funding.
Community radio recorded a record national listenership in 2017, with 5.3 million – or 1 in 4 – Australians tuning in each week. 450+ community radio services across the country provide a voice for those not adequately serviced by other broadcasters. These stations 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.
Community Broadcasting Association of Australia CEO Jon Bisset says this additional funding will secure the sector’s involvement in digital broadcasting across this period.
“For 40 years, Australian governments have been committed to community radio standing alongside commercial and national radio services on available free-to-air broadcast platforms. This increased funding supports community digital radio services over the next two years. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved in helping us keep the community in your radio.”
Bisset confirmed that the CBAA will continue working with the Government to ensure the long term sustainability of community radio.
“The additional funding for digital radio comes at a critical period for the sector and will assist to maintain metropolitan digital radio services and the planned extension of digital radio to Canberra, Darwin and Hobart. The sector will need this increased level of funding on an ongoing basis to support regional expansion of digital radio and we appreciate the Government’s commitment to supporting these next steps. Community services are an essential part of the mix of broadcast services available to Australian communities.”
The provision of funding to support the large number of regional and metropolitan community radio stations directly affected by the reorganisation of the 803-960 MHz radio frequency band will assist in covering the hard costs associated with this transition and alleviate pressure on these community-owned, not-for-profit organisations. This support is especially critical for regional and rural community stations in maintaining essential infrastructure.
Community Broadcasting Foundation President Peter Batchelor says the two-year restoration of lost digital radio funding is a welcome relief.
“We are delighted that the Government recognises the value of community radio and has responded to the sector’s request for support. The costs of expanding digital services is prohibitive for a non-profit sector that is run on passion and community good will.
“In a time of significant disruption to traditional media, community radio is growing in listeners, is providing independent local news and information and is continuing to be well connected to local communities and communities of interest.
“The support announced today will ensure that existing digital services in five mainland metropolitan cities will continue to serve their communities and will enable community stations in Canberra, Darwin and Hobart to extend their services into digital.”
Jarrod Graetz CEO Light FM, Michael Sukar Member for Deakin, Phillip Randall CBAA President, Minister Mitch Fifield, Jon Bisset CBAA CEO.