As part of a range of election promises made by Labor, Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland has promised more funding for community broadcasting and the ABC’s Double J radio service.
In a campaign statement Rowland said:
“An Albanese Labor Government will deliver a $29 million local news and community broadcasting transition package to help regional, local and community media providers from a decade of Liberal National mismanagement to a better future under Labor.
Labor is promising $12 million “to maintain community broadcasting funding and give the sector the funding certainty it needs beyond the next year” and to “keep Community TV stations Channel 31 Melbourne and Channel 44 Adelaide on air until there is an alternative use for the radiofrequency spectrum” they are currently broadcasting on”
Labor is also promising a $15 million fund for eligible regional and local newspaper publishers to help absorb newsprint price increases and to develop a News Media Assistance Program to “secure the evidence base needed to inform news media policy intervention in Australia and formulate measures to support public interest journalism and media diversity.”
In campaign mode, Rowland didn’t miss a chance in her policy announcement to criticise the current government for underfunding the community sector.
“After all community radio broadcasters have done for Australians – through bushfires, floods and the COVID pandemic – all they get from Scott Morrison is a great big question mark. Scott Morrison ignored the sector’s calls for COVID crisis funding during the pandemic and has ignored their calls for sustainable funding going forwards.
“Instead of granting the usual four-year top up funding, Scott Morrison inexplicably only gave the sector two years, which runs out next year. Community broadcasting relies on just over $20 million annually to maintain existing services and supports, yet from 2023-24, government funding drops to around $17 million over the forward estimates.
“Labor’s commitment will maintain community broadcasting funding so the sector can continue to support their communities with local news, emergency broadcasting and local content, including Australian music, as well as with post-COVID recovery and post-natural disaster initiatives.”
Current Communications Minister Paul Fletcher committed funding for the ABC and SBS shortly before the election campaign began and continued its current funding for the community broadcasting sector in the Federal Budget, but has not made any specific public commitments for community broadcast funding during the election campaign. The government’s policy position on community tv is that it “considers that the best outcome for community television for the long-term is for the CTV sector to utilise the internet as its distribution platform.”
Labor has also committed to help the ABC’s Double J radio service to expand.
An Albanese Labor Government has promised to “support Australian music and promote Australian artists by examining options to expand the reach of Double J on radio.”
“Labor supported the establishment of the original Double J and Anthony Albanese, long before he entered Parliament, spent years campaigning for Labor to expand Triple J into regional areas… Labor has heard industry calls to expand the reach of Double J on radio in regional areas. Labor will commission the ABC to undertake a feasibility study into the expansion of Double J on radio as the next logical next step in helping great Aussie artists reach more ears,” said Rowland.
CBAA CEO Jon Bisset has told radioinfo: “We are very pleased at today’s announcement, which shows Labor recognises the vital role community radio plays in supporting vibrant Australian communities. Across our sector, stations have been at the forefront of providing support and connection through recent disasters – like Bay FM’s relief efforts for Byron Shire, connecting people with critical services, meals, and medical care after the recent floods. They are also innovating to ensure regional communities don’t miss out on important news and information – like Outback Radio in Bourke and Torres Strait Islanders Media Association’s 4MW who returned their local papers to their communities.
“This commitment to funding for our sector protects our stations’ base funding, and maintains critical sector-wide projects, like DAB+ community radio. This means we can enhance listeners’ choice and media diversity. If Labor is elected, we look forward to working with them to identify a sustainable funding basis for the future that further empowers our stations to continue their vital work connecting, supporting and building resilient communities right across Australia.”
The CBAA says the package recognises the vital role of community broadcasting. It promises $12m for community radio ($4m a year over three years), securing the sector’s minimum base level of funding at just over $20m per annum – extending beyond what is marked in the forward estimates from 2023-24.
The CBAA believes it is “the base level of funding required” to support community radio station operations and content development, and vital industry-wide initiatives like community DAB+ digital radio.
If Labor is successful in the election and forms Government, they have promised to work with the sector to identify a sustainable funding basis for the future through the Government’s Community Broadcasting Program. The CBAA has long advocated for an increase in sector funding to $25m per annum to maintain the sector’s output and further enhance station resilience and innovation.