Penrith gets new community licence

The ABA has decided to allocate a new community radio licence for Penrith, in Sydney. The licence will be allocated to Way Out West Fine Music Inc. (WOW FM) which will broadcast on 100.7 FM. The licence will be allocated from 1 June 2001.

“The proposed service will provide programming targeted to meet the needs of the Penrith community and will have programs aimed at non-English speakers, children, young people and the unemployed,” said ABA Chairman David Flint. “The applicant satisfied the ABA that it would meet the existing and perceived future needs of the Penrith licence area.”

The ABA has allocated this licence after community consultation during the licence area planning process and during the assessment process. There were two applicants for the licence, WOW FM and AIR FM (which also incorporated Nepean Christian Community Radio Association). Both WOW FM and AIR have been conducting temporary broadcasts for some time and in recent months had been sharing the 100.7 frequency.

The ABA decided to allocate the licence to WOWFM because “the ABA considered that in comparison to the other applicant’s proposed service, this group’s service would better meet the needs of the Penrith community.”

AIR FM released this statement:

Irony appears to be the theme surrounding the announcement of the Penrith Community Licence, which was awarded to multicultural broadcaster WOW FM.

The other applicant, AIR FM (Nepean Riverlands Community Radio Association) has in effect only received less than 4 days notice before surrendering their share of the 100.7 frequency.

AIR FM following the ABA’s Darwin Principles, merged with the third aspirant, Nepean Christian Broadcasters in mid 2000, a fact sometimes disregarded by the ABA, although ironically, the ABA press release identified AIR FM as Nepean Christian Community Radio Association (refer
ABA NR 30/2001).

The twist continues with the broadcast of a segment for a Network Seven Show promoting the International Year of the Volunteer on the eve of AIR’s last day on air. The segment was shot at AIR FM featuring it’s young presenters.

According to a spokesperson for AIR FM the decision is disappointing.

“It’s disappointing that many of our presenters will not even the get the opportunity to inform their audience” he said. “Additionally it is equally disturbing that the ABA chose to disregard its own criteria” the spokesperson stated.

In the wake of last week’s high powered community licence decisions, AIR FM has also raised questions regarding the ABA’s perceived preoccupation with multicultural broadcasting, which, according to the ABA’s press release, was a dominant factor in the Penrith licence decision.

“Less than 9% of the local population were born in a non-english speaking country and of that less than 1% cannot speak english. Given that the ABA’s own report identifies three dedicated multicultural radio stations as well as a dedicated multicultural television station servicing the area, the determination that multicultural broadcasting is a significant need in the community is quizzical,” she said.

Despite the loss of the licence, AIR FM will continue to provide media scholarships to the University of Western Sydney and it’s support of several local charities along with the production of specialist programs.

WOW FM’s Treasurer Charlie Tonna said: “This result will be good for the Penrith Community. The community will be gaining. We are going to serve all the community – most of our programs are in English and multicultural programming is about 20% of our on-air content.”