Community radio has fought a hard-won battle this year, breathing a collective sigh of relief when the Federal Government pledged $6 million over three years towards rectifying a budgeting shortfall that could have mean the decimation of up to 37 community radio broadcasters.
But following the change in Federal power following this past September’s election, the commitment to community radio no longer looks so secure.
This past Tuesday (17th December) the Tony Abbott Government announced its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) report, which revealed a cut of $2.5 million in funding for “community based radio services,” a decision which the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA)’s General Manager Jon Bisset has labelled “disappointing,” as The Music Network reports.
The CBAA, which represents over 270 members, points out in a media release that the money was pledged in May this year to help community broadcasters, groups, and councils in regional parts of Australia to make the switch over to the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service by the deadline of 31st December 2013.
Community radio was to get $150,000 of this funding to upgrade radio transmission equipment provided through the CBAA, while the rest of the funding was being used to “assisting self-help groups and local councils upgrade equipment so they can re-transmit commercial, public and community radio services provided on the new VAST satellite service.”
The CBAA’s Jon Bisset says the budget cuts will luckily only have a minimal impact on the community radio sector, as the stations that have already upgraded their equipment to the new VAST service “do not need to take any action.”
“The CBAA is working with the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF) to reduce the financial impact on the sector and will soon meet with the Minister for Communication’s office to reiterate the value of community broadcasting,” says Mr Bisset in a media release.
The labelling of the $2.5 million government cuts as merely “disappointing” is a very different sort of rhetoric to the CBAA’s attitudes from earlier in the year, including President Adrian Basso’s opinion piece addressing how the lack of funding meant the lack of a secure future for community radio stations in Australia and the listener and programming diversity it provides.
The Liberal Party’s funding cuts aren’t too surprising given their vague stance on arts and music support in the lead-up to the September election that brought Tony Abbott into power.
While Kevin Rudd’s Labor administration had promised to fulfil its committed $6 million in funding over three years to community broadcasters to aid in the switch to go digital in the pre-election campaigning of September, the Liberal party’s pre-election stance on community radio was vague at best.
As late as August they were being criticised as “lagging behind” by the CBAA. “The Coalition needs to listen to the calls from the community and reveal how the party will support community broadcasters before it’s time to vote,” said Mr Basso at the time.
“Historically, the Coalition has been very supportive of community broadcasting,” he added but noted that voters “deserve to know where [all] the major parties stand… before we go to the polls on September 7th.”
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