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Labor Commits to Keeping Community Radio

3 June 2016 at 2:16 pm
Ellie Cooper
The Labor Party has pledged to reverse the budget cuts to community radio if elected as the petition to #KeepCommunityRadio continues to build momentum with almost 40,000 signatures.

Ellie Cooper | 3 June 2016 at 2:16 pm


Labor Commits to Keeping Community Radio
3 June 2016 at 2:16 pm

The Labor Party has pledged to reverse the budget cuts to community radio if elected as the petition to #KeepCommunityRadio continues to build momentum with almost 40,000 signatures.

Shadow communications minister Jason Clare, along with Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese, made the announcement at FBi’s Sydney studio on Thursday, ahead of the community radio sector’s national day of action on Friday.

“Today, we’re announcing that if Labor is elected on 2 July, we’ll reverse the cuts that Malcolm Turnbull has made to digital community radio services,” Clare said.

“We understand how important community radio is, you’ve got about five million people right across the country listening to more than 440 community radio services every week.”

Albanese said: “If you talk about a dumb government act, this is it. This station survives on the sniff of an oily rag, survives on the basis of the people that give up their time for nothing. The least you can expect is the government to do its bit.”

The government cut $1.4 million per year from community radio funding, which could put all of the sector’s 37 community digital radio services at risk.

Around 25 per cent of the community radio listening audience in five major capital cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide – tune in to digital radio.

The community radio peak body, Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA), welcomed Labor’s support and urged the Coalition to match the commitment.

“It’s a huge step, for us we’re halfway there. Now we just need the government to match that commitment,” CBAA chief executive officer Jon Bisset told Pro Bono Australia News.

“We’ve had bipartisan support for community radio for 40 years, so having Labor come back on board is fantastic, but we really need the Coalition to come back on board as well.

He said Labor’s announcement was “undoubtedly” due to the Keep the Community in Your Radio campaign launched after the budget.

“We have large numbers of petitioners in lots of marginal seats. I think that’s had a big part to play, and there’s certainly been MPs in those seats talking to Jason Clare and Anthony Albanese and Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shorten about ensuring community radio gets refunded,” he said.

“We’ve got a day of action happening today… we’ve got radio stations right around the country that are calling on their listeners to sign the petition, and also let the Coalition know how much they care for community radio, how important it is to them and asking the Coalition government to refund the $1.4 million they cut from the budget this year.”

Bisset said the sector would continue to campaign for funding in the leadup to the federal election.

“We’ll continue the campaign, we’ve got significant support for lots of stations, we’ll keep the pressure on particularly in the marginal seats where we know it’s going to come down to a few thousand votes, or a few hundred votes even,” he said.

“In many of those seats we have several thousand people from our petition and we’ll keep the pressure on the Coalition particularly in those seats and with any luck convince the government to refund community radio.”

The Greens also committed to restoring $1.4 million per year to community radio on Thursday. MP Adam Bandt said the party had a long history of supporting community broadcasting.

“Community radio plays a pivotal role in our democracy, providing Australians with much needed media diversity and adding important additional voices to the media landscape,” Bandt said.

“Community radio is a service that people in cities, regions and remote communities alike rely on to provide variety and local content.”

“Community radio also serves as an ‘on-the-job’ training ground for Australia’s largest media employer, the ABC, and a vast array of commercial radio stations across the country.”

“It is in the public interest that community radio continues to flourish, however our community radio stations face financial strife at the hands of Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberal government’s cuts.”

A spokesperson for Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said there wasn’t a cut to ongoing funding for community digital radio.

“Community digital radio continues to receive $2.28 million per year as part of the government’s community broadcasting funding of $15.5 million in 2016/17,” the spokesperson said.

“The previous government allocated an additional $6 million over three years in temporary top-up funding for community digital radio and decided that this funding would finish at the end of the 2015/16 financial year. All parties understood this and it was clearly shown in the budget papers at the time.

“The lapsing of this funding reflects a decision of the former Labor government.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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