Australia's booming community radio sector has been given a much-needed boost after last year's budget cuts, with the federal government today pledging a total of $6.1 million in extra funding over the next two years.
The government will provide $3.9 million in funds over the next two years for digital stations — including expansion to permanent services for Hobart, Canberra, Darwin and the Gold Coast — along with $2.2 million in support money for broadcasters impacted by the long-term strategy for the 803-960MHz band by the Australian Communication & Media Authority.
The newly announced funds will be in addition to the existing $15 million provided each year through the Community Broadcasting Program. As noted by the Community Broadcasting Association Of Australia, the news was announced by Communications Minister Mitch Fifield on Melbourne's 89.9 LightFM today, and comes after a sustained campaign to ensure that community radio remained well-funded enough to continue operating at historical levels.
More than 55,000 Australians signed the #KeepCommunityRadio petition, with more than 100,000 listeners, industry identities and artists — including Josh Pyke, The Smith Street Band, The Goon Sax, Reece Mastin, Camp Cope and Kim Salmon, along with stations such as Melbourne's Triple R and PBS FM, Brisbane's 4ZZZ, Sydney's FBi, Perth's RTRFM and Adelaide's PBA FM, among several others — throwing their support behind it.
According to the CBAA, the sector has achieved its largest-ever listener base in 2017, with 5.3 million Australians now tuning in to a community station each week.
"The additional funding for digital radio comes at a critical period for the sector and will assist to maintain metropolitan digital radio services and the planned extension of digital radio to Canberra, Darwin and Hobart," CBAA chief executive Jon Bisset told the association.
"The sector will need this increased level of funding on an ongoing basis to support regional expansion of digital radio, and we appreciate the Government's commitment to supporting these next steps. Community services are an essential part of the mix of broadcast services available to Australian communities."
According to the federal Department Of Communications & The Arts, there are more than 440 licensed community radio stations across Australia, making it the largest independent media sector in the country.
The funds will be used for content development, worker training, infrastructure, online services and broadcasting of Australian music, the department said.