Feature :: Commit to Community Radio
May 8th 2013
Does government funding reflect those figures?
Let’s ask Gotye…
“You didn’t have to cut me off!”
See, there’s a lack of funding for digital community radio services.
Wally de Backer (aka – Gotye) recently wrote an open letter to the Communications Minister Stephen Conroy asking him to address the shortfall for the future of community radio. The Minister’s response however suggested that stations should just fund themselves.
Wally’s kinda famous for writing catchy, award winning tunes. But he acknowledges that even with all his talent, community radio helped him kick it all off.
Oh, here let him tell it:
“Australian community radio has been instrumental in my recent international success. Without the support and encouragement of community stations when I started self releasing my music in 2001 I would not have been able to develop my career.”
Now digital community radio is fighting for its life with only one week before the federal budget and a $1.4 Million dollar shortfall to continue services.
The long and the shortfall…
Back in 2009 the federal government provided $11.2 Million dollars to kickstart community digital radio across Australia. The funding was instituted by Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. The money was for the setup and operation of digital radio services over three years and was part of the government’s commitment to a digital future for radio.
Basic annual costs for digital radio have leveled at $3.6 Million dollars a year. In May 2012 the government announced funding of $2.2 Million dollars a year over four years for digital community radio. HIGH FIVES!
… Hang on a minute, that’s short $1.4 Million dollars.
A cut, or a shortfall?
Any way you cut it (pun intended) the government’s ongoing funding commitment of $2.2 million dollars a year is $1.4 million dollars short of the operational costs of community digital radio.
That’s 40%; a huge chunk of the money required, which may result in community radios stations shutting down digital services.
FBi is one such community station.
The government maintains it hasn’t cut anything – it’s giving money away! But this ignores the basic costs projected to access the digital radio platform. Failure is built into the system.
Conroy’s other argument is that stations should fund themselves, as they always have. Well yeah, FBi and all community stations keep themselves running through sponsorship and the support of our listeners. But there’s a big difference between raising the funds we need to cover normal operations, and funding the monumental transition to digital from FM.
Heard about media diversity?
The government bangs on about it a fair bit – basically it’s about having lots of voices expressing different opinions.
And how does digital community radio help support media diversity?
It’s all in the name; community radio supports and represents exactly what it says – communities. Whether it’s Indigenous voices on Koori Radio 93.7 FM, Muslim voices on Muslim Community Radio 92.1 FM, or yours truly here at FBi 94.5 FM supporting new Sydney music, arts and culture!
If community stations don’t stay on digital, we’re cutting them out of the future. THE FUTURE!
Infrastructure is for the future, stupid!
The government’s argument ignores the fact that the future of radio is digital… they were the ones who told us that in the first place! They said they wanted community radio in that future.
At the national launch of community digital radio services in 2011, Minister Conroy said that the Gillard government would ensure affordable access for community stations. However the legislative framework requires commercial and community broadcasters be treated equally on costs. No account is taken of not-for-profit versus for-profit status (read the detailed facts & figures here).
Where’s the love Conroy?
As the way we consume media evolves, maintaining digital becomes increasingly important. This is basically the argument the government made in criticising the Opposition’s NBN policy – remember, Conroy is also Minister for the Digital Economy. Can he see the inconsistency?
So what can we do?
If you haven’t already, go to committocommunityradio.org.au and join the campaign for digital radio funding.
You can also send Senator Conroy an email on email@example.com, hell give him a call on (02) 6277 7480. Tell him what FBi and digital community radio means to you!