Political Engagement Toolkit

#CBAAconf: Political engagement and advocacy in community radio: the role of stations

Joel Pringle, 17th November 2015

Provide a platform for the discussion of local issues and focus on community, not partisan politics.

These were two strong points of agreement from Lucy Wicks, Member for Robertson, and Andrew Bartlett, former federal Senator for Queensland, long-time member of the 4ZZZ community and current station president.  

This conference session focussed on how community radio stations can build strong relationships with their local politicians, and included the launch of the CBAA’s Political Engagement Toolkit.

Coming from both sides of politics, Lucy from the Liberal Party and Andrew formerly of The Democrats and now a member of The Greens, both agreed that over 70% of a politicians role is non-political and about representing local communities, rather than the rough and tumble we see through the mainstream media.

Andrew stated that in his previous experience as an elected representative, it was community radio stations that provided the more interesting, and often challenging, interviews. This is because they operate in a different space to the '10-second grabs and gotcha moments’ of the commercial media.

Lucy agreed, providing an example of a proposed development of Commonwealth Government office in her electorate that is a current local issue in her community, with a debate about jobs versus alternate uses of the site. She commented that it was difficult to find somewhere for a public discussion of the history of the issue from both sides of the argument. These discussions are important to turn potential conflict into ‘meaningful disagreement’, an important part of strong democracy and resilient communities.

The underlying theme from the session was that to engage with a hard to reach politician, it is important to understand what their interests are and how community radio fits into that. This link between community interest and spaces to explore local issues are very valuable to establishing and maintaining strong relationships with our elected representatives.

Andrew’s declaration that that 4ZZZ ‘tended to be a little bit Left’ bought chuckles from the audience, but his point contained a valuable lesson for other stations: it’s important to be up front about who you are and not to pretend to be someone you are not. 4ZZZ is open and honest about it’s station culture, but this does not stop them from working with their local member, a member of the Liberal Party. Both are interested in issues of community interest, and the vast majority of these cross party lines.   

The session included the launch of a new CBAA resource for stations, the Political Engagaement Toolkit. Many of the themes of the panel discussion resonate through Toolkit, which is of case studies from stations who are already experts in this area, as well as many practical and planning materials for stations just starting out.

The CBAA efforts in advocating for the community radio sector are strengthened by the depth of relationships around the country. If stations are interested in building stronger political engagement, they can download the new Toolkit or get in touch with the CBAA’s Policy and Advocacy Adviser Joel Pringle.

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How political engagement works for Alpine Radio.


Part 1 - The Benefits of Political Engagement - starts on Tuesday, 23 February at 6.30pm.


*Past webinar - click through to view webinar recording*
The CBAA is facilitating a 3 part series of webinars that will assist stations in fostering positive relationships with politicians as well as instruction in how best to take advantage of the Political Engagement Toolkit.