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News March 29, 2022

Arts Minister Paul Fletcher Won’t Back Push For Double J to Be Given FM Licence

Editorial Operations Manager
Arts Minister Paul Fletcher Won’t Back Push For Double J to Be Given FM Licence

Australia’s minister for the arts Paul Fletcher has avoided throwing his weight behind a push to get digital radio station Double J onto FM radio.

The statement comes in light of a petition spearheaded by female Aussie musicians Missy Higgins, Kasey Chambers, Kate Miller-Heidke, Sarah Blasko, Vikki Thorn and Deborah Conway.

The collective said that in Australia, ageing female artists get far less exposure on FM radio than their male counterparts, and Double J’s expansion would help redress this imbalance.

The open letter called on both the Coalition Government and the Labor Opposition to commit to modest additional funding for the project should they be successful at the upcoming election, with a particular focus on regional Australia.

The Opposition has tentatively backed the plan, saying they’d like to see it happen and Double J’s expansion is the “next logical step” for the broadcaster. Labor didn’t, however, offer up specifics or details of funding commitments.

A spokesperson for Fletcher has taken a different approach, noting “the ABC has content and operational independence”. This, they said, would include any decision to apply for an analogue FM radio licence.

“The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is responsible for both analogue (AM and FM radio) and digital radio regulation, including planning and licensing. Analogue and digital radio licences operate under separate legislative and regulatory regimes and are not inter-changeable,” the spokesperson explained.

“Any application for allocating and issuing an FM licence would be a matter for ACMA. ACMA would need to take into consideration a range of elements, including the availability of FM spectrum within each radio licence area, impacts (such as interference) on other broadcasters, and planning/engineering resources.”

The minister’s spokesperson also threw their weight behind the existing system, noting the power and potential of digital radio.

“Double J is available to access through a variety of platforms, from digital radios, television and online streaming and apps. This choice of access for consumers provides a much greater potential audience than via FM radio frequencies. Using digital services gives the broadcaster greater options for providing more and diverse channels of music and other programming.”

Despite not backing this movement, the spokesperson did push the Morrison Government’s credentials in the space and highlighted its apparent support for women in music.

“The Morrison Government is supporting the contemporary music sector through the $30.9 million Australian Music Industry Package. All aspects of this package support female artists and music industry professionals, and specifically includes the Women in Music Mentor program targeting support to women in the industry.”

The petition was initially seeking 10,000 signatures in support, however it has surpassed this milestone and is now looking for 15,000.

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