Campaign for More Funding by Community Radio and TV Wins Pre-Election Support
The community broadcasting sector’s hard work during the federal election campaign now has Labor, the Greens and the Nationals expressing support for future funding.
“This commitment to funding for our sector protects our stations’ base funding, and maintains critical sector-wide projects, like DAB+ community radio,” Jon Bisset said, chief executive of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia.
“This means we can enhance listeners’ choice and media diversity.”
During the campaign, the sector continually emphasised how with over 500 services that community radio reaches more than five million listeners each week, including First Nations communities and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
It underlined its importance in informing communities through bushfires, floods and the COVID pandemic.
The CBAA has called for an increase in sector funding to $25 million per annum.
Currently, $20 million is projected in the Forward Estimates until 2022/23, before it drops back to $16 million from 2023/24.
“A baseline of $20 million secures major national projects,” the association said. “An increase to $25 million per annum will strengthen station operations and resilience.”
It called on member stations to get the message out by interviewing local candidates about their policies and invite them to station functions.
Labor promised a $29 million local news and community broadcasting transition package, and $12 million “to maintain community broadcasting funding and give the sector the funding certainty it needs beyond the next year,” said Michelle Rowland, shadow minister for communications.
Community TV stations Channel 31 Melbourne and Channel 44 Adelaide will remain on air until there is an alternative use for the radiofrequency spectrum they are broadcasting on.
Rowland took a swipe at the government: “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.
“(He) ignored the sector’s calls for COVID crisis funding during the pandemic and 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.”
The Coalition government has made no funding comment on community broadcasting.
In February it increased funding for the ABC and SBS between July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025.
Paul Fletcher, minister for communications and the arts, believes community TV should broadcast on the internet. But Barnaby Joyce, deputy prime minister, said the Nationals, which he leads, would continue its financial support.
He was interviewed on Sta FM 91.9 Inverell (NSW) when asked about the $25 million quest.
“Whether it’s Tenterfield, whether it’s Glen Innes, whether it’s Tamworth – all these community radio stations are vitally important,” Joyce confirmed on air.
“I make sure we’ve got funding for all those community radio stations because they’re the only ones who give us genuine, non-syndicated community views and community news.
“So we’re going to keep doing that. We’ve done it in the past. We’ll continue to do it now.”
The Greens said it supports community broadcasters because of their “important role” in strengthening media diversity in Australia.
“Despite this, they face a great deal of uncertainty thanks to short funding cycles. This compromises their ability to deliver content and produce public interest journalism,” the party said.
The Greens said it would provide future funding based on a five-year cycle, instead of anually so that broadcasters can “plan adequately”.
In addition, “We will go further by supporting community radio with an indexed $1.4 million in funding for digital transmission, which will support the over 55 metro-wide community radio services across Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin and Canberra.”