It is a major boost to community radio, which has mounted a strong campaign for the extra funding. In March the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia said it needed funding of $3.6 million per year to maintain digital radio infrastructure for the 37 metropolitan community radio stations that hold digital licenses.
The Government had previously committed to fund the changeover, but had not allocated sufficient funds. The new commitment covers what the industry was calling for.
“This new funding will help community radio stations in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth to continue broadcasting, upgrade their equipment and improve their digital radio services,” Senator Conroy said, in his last statement as Minister.
“It builds on the Government’s unequalled track record of supporting community broadcasting and addresses concerns that some community digital radio services might go off air. This brings the Government’s total funding of digital community radio to $28.9 million.
“Radio stations like FBI Radio in Sydney, 3RRR in Melbourne, Perth’s RTRFM, Fresh Digital in Adelaide and Brisbane’s ZED Digital are critical independent voices in the radio landscape whose future is now secured.
“Nearly four and a half million Australians tune into community radio every week. Digital radio offers new opportunities for broadcasters and listeners, and this funding will support the innovative and diverse local services provided by community broadcasters.
In 2013-14 the Government will also provide support to a range of initiatives in the community broadcasting sector, including:
- $4.6 million in core funding to support general community radio and television broadcasting.
- $2.1 million for targeted funding for ethnic community broadcasting, information technology initiatives and satellite services.
- $0.7 million for the National Training Fund to provide accredited training, particularly in regional, rural and remote Australia.
- $2.2 million to assist community radio stations, including Radio for the Print Handicapped with the costs associated with access to transmission infrastructure and operational costs.
- $3.1 million for content production in the specialist areas of Ethnic, Indigenous and Radio for the Print Handicapped, and for a Community Radio Content Development fund established in 2011-12.
- $0.6 million to ensure that Australian musicians and community broadcasters can continue to access AMRAP services.
Station Manager at 3RRRFM, David Houchin, was one of the key drivers behind the ‘Commit to Community Radio’ campaign. “At only about $40,000 per station per year, it’s really not a lot of money in the scheme of things.” His prayers have been answered – providing the funding doesn’t get lost in the cracks of what will be a chaotic time in Conroy’s old Department.