Community radio has 7 million listeners says new survey

Seven million people each month listen to community radio, according to the findings of a comprehensive national listenership survey, released by the Community Broadcasting Association.

The survey indicates 24% (more than 3.7 million people) listen to community radio in a typical week, while 63% listen to commercial radio and 44% to ABC/SBS. The numbers add up to more than 100% because, as in other surveys, multiple station listening is possible in any week.

685,000 community radio listeners are exclusive supporters who do not consume ABC, SBS or commercial radio. There are 1.4 million weekly listeners to community radio in regional areas.

“Community radio listeners have big ears,” Community Broadcasting Foundation board member, Deb Welch (pictured) , told a large crowd of guests invited to the launch function.

The survey’s sample size was 5014 people aged over 15, which was weighted in the same way as the ACNeilsen surveys, to reflect population variations by age and sex.

The most common reasons given for people listening to community radio were: diversity of programming, specialist music and information, and (especially in regional areas) local information and news.

The Northern Territory was the state with most community radio listening (42%), followed by South Australia (30%), Western Australia (29%), Queensland (26%), Tasmania (25%), Victoria (23%), New South Wales (21%) and lastly ACT (11%). Overall, non-metro areas have higher listening shares than metropolitan areas.

Darwin had the highest percentage of community listeners, followed by Perth, while Melbourne had the largest raw number of community listeners (639,000).

Time spent listening in non-metro areas was 8.8 hours per week, while TSL in cities was 7.1 hours per week. 53% of community radio listeners are male and 47% female.

Listening by demographic shows 19% of 15-24 year olds listen to community radio; 26% of 25-39s; 29% of 40-54s and 26% of 55+. Older demographics (55+) listened longest.

There are 345 licenced community stations in Australia with an army of about 20,000 people, mostly volunteers, working in the sector.

Community broadcasting listenership is not specifically collected in the regular Neilsen Media Research surveys.

The figures are the result of “the most comprehensive survey conducted in the community radio sector’s 30 year history,” which cost $120,000. It was funded by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts through the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF).

CBAA President, Paul Terdich, opening the launch event, told guests: “The audience is listening, and we hope the politicians are listening too… Community radio is fundamentally different from the other sectors.”

The figures were officially launched by Communications Minister, Helen Coonan, who says the Government “recognises the significance of the community radio sector” and is a supporter of the sector.

She says the Government will continue to provide “ongoing support” to the sector if it is re-elected, and will soon announce its communications policy, which will detail support to community broadcasting among other policy statements.

All major parties were represented at the launch, with the Labor Party, Democrats and Greens also speaking.

Democrat Senator Aden Ridgeway acknowledged the “vital dialogue” being conducted in the community sector, particularly aboriginal stations. He called on the government to “continue funding aboriginal media which were previously funded by ATSIC.”


Labor’s Tanya Plebisek, representing Shadow Communications Minister, Lindsay Tanner, told the audience “community radio people are committed to honest reporting” and she hopes they will continue to bring that approach to other media sectors as they move from the community radio sector. She criticised the ABC for recently cutting its cadet program and confirmed Labor’s support for the AMRAP music project.

Greens Candidate, John Kaye, said he had “a suspicion that many people are refugees from the noise of commerical radio,” and that these figures confirm that suspicion.


Deb Welch hailed the figures as “confirmation of the growing strength and influence the community broadcasting sector has across Australia.

“More than half of community radio listeners cited the diversity in programming and specialist music or information programs as their main reasons for tuning in.”

Welch says the figures also focus attention on the sector’s need for more government funding, which was mentioned by several speakers.