Drought affected community radio stations need urgent assistance

While CRA has reported a 10.2% dip in advertising for commercial metropolitan stations, and then SCA advising sharholders of an expected revenue drop across their radio and TV networks, some community radio stations in drought affected areas are now really beginning to feel the pinch.

At a recent meeting of community stations in Northwest NSW, managers expressed their concerns on how the drought is affecting them, with revenue down by 15% to 30%.

Some of these stations operate on a yearly income of $25,000 to $35,000, enough money to pay the rent and electricity bills at their studios and transmitter site and little else.
All of these stations run on mainly volunteer labour, so any reduction in their already small revenue base directly affects their ability to keep broadcasting.
Volunteer numbers are also dwindling as many volunteers are reducing their support due to increasing workloads on their farms, or they are associated with a business that is struggling at the moment and don’t have the time to spend at the station.
Out of town volunteers are now finding the cost of fuel prohibitive, and despite some stations assisting with fuel costs, reduced revenue is making that more difficult.
Spokesman for the area and Chief Executive of Tamworth’s 88.9FM, George Frame, told radioinfo, “We had a 6-station phone conference this week on the current drought situation in New England Northwest NSW. I was surprised by their comments and we see difficult times ahead unless the drought breaks. However, the situation is much worse for these other stations than for us, and appears immediate.
“Some may not be able to meet power cost etc, by February…and if this is the situation with these stations, it must be widespread across NSW and Queensland regionals.”
George is calling on the CBAA to take immediate action by

  1. Sending out a questionnaire to regional stations in the drought affected areas and request information on their circumstances.
  2. From the information gathered approach government /CBF for immediate funds to assist through this period.

He says that “Obviously this will take some time, but if not commenced asap, the first quarter of next year could be devastating. These stations are not only close to, but vital to their communities and their audiences rely on them.”

CEO of the CBAA, Jon Bissett says the CBAA is aware of the situation and has been in dialogue with many stations across the country who are in drought-affected areas. “It’s a tough time for community radio stations and other organisations nationwide, due to economic downturns, droughts, digital disruption affecting traditional organisational models and other external challenges.
The CBAA is in dialogue with Government to discuss station challenges particularly in regional Australia, last month meeting with the Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, Minister Mark Coulton and others. The CBAA will continue to advocate for increased funding and regulatory changes that will make it easier for stations to remain viable, sustainable and best serve their communities.”

Stations experiencing difficulties because of the drought may be able to access funding through the CBF’s Quick Response Funding as these grants are reasonably flexible and  are designed to assist stations who are in a sudden and unforeseen situation.

These grants can cover  

  • Replacing essential equipment and related expenses to restore basic transmission following an unforeseen event such as flood, bushfire, lightning or theft
  • Replacing essential operational equipment and related expenses not able to be reasonably anticipated
  • Unexpected changes at your studio or transmission site such as a sudden need to relocate
  • A financial loan while an insurance claim is being processed and/or funds are raised
  • Other costs associated with maintaining transmission and/or operations not able to be reasonably anticipated.



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