For those who do not know, today is a day of action. The May 2012 budget cut funding for community digital radio stations by $1.4 million a year – down to just $2.2 million. As a result the digital radio services offered by 37 community radio stations in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth are under threat. If the funding is not restored in the upcoming budget, all of the radio stations in at least two of these cities will have to stop broadcasting in digital.
Why is community radio important? Well, more than 4 million Australians tune into community radio each week – a quarter of the total radio audience. Community radio stations produce local content & feature local voices, serve minority and remote communities (such as immigrant and indigenous communities), and are involved in disability services (such as stations and shows that read for those who are print disabled). Digital radio is important for community radio because it is the radio medium of the future. Many of the big commercial stations along with the ABC and SBS have taken to digital transmissions. Streaming content on the internet is even more expensive than broadcasting in digital, and just like TV there is undoubtedly going to be a point in the future when analog transmissions are halted permanently – some other countries have already done this. To ensure viability community radio stations need to keep up with the other big players, furthermore, if they are forced to pull out now there is no guarantee of them ever getting back on the digital spectrum.
We talk a lot about media diversity in Australia, especially considering it’s effect on democracy. Surely there is no better champion of diversity and the voice of the people than community radio – where content is both produced and consumed at a local level, and without commercial interests getting in the way. Community radio is an important player in Australian society, Australia’s media landscape, and Australia’s democracy, and for that to remain true it needs support. It needs your support. Click on the image below to visit the Commit to Community Radio website. There you can find more information as well as a tool to send an email to Australia’s Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. Show him that you too are committed to Community Radio.