Community Radio Under Threat in Australia
It’s not often that I write about a particular political or social agenda that needs action from the community. Most of my writing consists of musings about the state of society, or a particularly nasty cultural situation. But this past week something troubling is brewing in Australia, and I am calling upon YOU to take some action.
It was recently announced by The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy (yes the same Senator Conroy whose cure for internet security was a call to filter all “unsavoury” sites from the internet, which was turned out to be as bad an idea as it seemed) that his department is planning on excluding vital funding which will allow community radio stations to continue to operate in the new world of digital radio. The slash in funding in the upcoming budget means that radio stations such as my beloved 3RRRFM may not be able to afford to broadcast digitally in future, and may face being left behind or even having to shut down altogether. This not only affects 3RRR, but over 350 stations nationally. These stations all face similar prospects if Senator Conroy’s decision is not changed, and it will spell disaster for the cultural diversity of Australia.
Why is independent community radio important?
Independent community radio offers an alternative voice to the vacuous mainstream media. It allows for, and encourages, people and projects that are at the grassroots level of our communities to raise awareness about the realities of living in Australia, not just the agendas that the media monsters at Fairfax might want us to see. It is a place where alternative and underground music can be heard and can flourish, independent of the music giants like Sony BMG, and independent of the consumer-driven corporate dictatorship of mainstream radio.
Independent community radio offers a platform for the left-of-centre, the underground, and the downtrodden. It’s a huge benefit to the country, and one that ensures we can all express ourselves freely and without the fears of censorship or impinging on the ideal of free-speech.
Most importantly, independent radio gives voice to the sectors of society that may not otherwise be heard. Our indigenous population, people who are LGBT, those with disabilities, those without a voice in mainstream societies, all can have a say within the realms of independent community radio.
It is estimated that over 4 million people in Australia regularly tune in to community radio every week. That’s more than one sixth of the population of the country. Some people, such as myself, can’t stomach the possibility of community radio no longer being available in the world of digital radio.
Why does it matter to me?
At a young age, around 15 i believe, the discovery of 3RRR (and to a lesser degree 3PBS) was like discovering gold. Never had I heard such varied and interesting music and opinions about the world. In this sense, community radio opened my eyes to the great cultural and societal diversity the world had to offer. And as a sulky teenager, who saw the world as being against him, I found solace in the fact that the world presented to us by mainstream media is not in fact the whole world (if in fact any of the real world). I turned from a disillusioned and affected teenager to one that could embrace the cultural underground of music and the arts. If it weren’t for community radio, I would not be the man I am today.
How much money are we talking about?
The budget shortfall is a meagre $1.4 million. To put that into some sort of perspective, compare that cost to the Australian Election Commission’s costings of elections since 1901. With this being an election year, numbers like this should make us wonder where all that money went.
So I am asking you to take some action. Let Senator Conroy know you don’t want to live in a world filled with only Rhianna and Guy Sebastian. Let him know that your issues are more important as anything you might see on Today Tonight or the latest “reality TV” sensation. Let him know that there are people out there for whom community radio is the only alternative where solace can be found from the consumer driven model of today’s profit and consumer-based economy.
Help protect the lifeblood of Australian media. Let Senator Conroy hear your voice, so we can continue to hear the voice of the community. Don’t let mainstream media bully the voices of the community out of existence.
What can you do?
Send a letter to Senator Conroy. The letter, as set up by Commit To Community Radio, reads (in part):
I listen to community radio and understand how important community broadcasting is for millions of Australians like me.
That’s why I’m asking you to commit to funding the $1.4 million pa that will help keep all current community digital radio services running.
Cuts your government made to the funding for digital community radio in the last budget have left digital services at risk. Without a commitment to full funding in the upcoming May budget, vital community radio services are threatened.
The community broadcasting sector provides important services and access for so many different communities including Indigenous media, ethnic, youth, educational, the vision impaired, religious, and arts and cultural communities.
We can’t afford to lose any of these services providing local content that can’t be heard on other broadcasting services.
Your government has a long-standing commitment to ensure community broadcasters have affordable access to digital radio alongside the national and commercial radio sectors.
By honouring your commitment to community radio and securing the $1.4 million in digital radio funding, Senator Conroy, you will be ensuring the future of community radio stations for millions of Australians.
Please commit to a digital future for community broadcasting.
Visit the Commit To Community Radio website for more information.