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Celebrating 50 Years for the CBAA

Reece Kinnane, 3rd July 2024

This week, we are truly honored to acknowledge and celebrate our 50th Anniversary with all community broadcasters. 

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) was originally founded as the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia (PBAA). 

On 5-6 July 1974 our founding members met at the University of NSW in Sydney for an Independent Seminar on Public Broadcasting. 

On Sunday 7 July 1974 they issued a public statement to announce their decision to form the PBAA:  

“The first organization to link together, on a national basis, the burgeoning number of local groups, who are working towards establishing new public broadcasting stations…”  

“The Association, which is non-party political and non-profit, already draws its support from all mainland capitals, Newcastle and Bathurst. All 16 groups attending the seminar supported its formation and future operations.” 

“Widely diverse groups in the public broadcasting movement found that they all face an extensive set of common problems before they can get on the air. As a result of the formation of the Association, groups as widely distinctive as student broadcasters and university institutional broadcasters, classical music and pop music broadcasters, local suburban regional and metropolitan-wide broadcasters, public affairs and cultural broadcasters, colleges of advanced education and adult education broadcasters, will work closely together in a united front to establish the new public broadcasting sector.” 

“This new sector will provide a wider and richer diversity of programmes than possible through the existing commercial and ABC sectors. They will use the new FM and extra AM frequencies which are now becoming available.”  

We all, as the contemporary custodians of our sector, now known as community broadcasting, are eternally grateful for the vision and dedication of this founding generation of broadcasters. 

Today, community broadcasters deliver over 500 AM/FM/DAB+ services and 2 dedicated TV services that reach over 5.19 million people across Australia each week – almost one quarter (24%) of Australians. 

The social and economic impact of community broadcasting is driven by over 17,000 volunteers and almost 1000 employees who together play an increasingly important role in connecting Australian communities that are underserved by media. As per the vision of the founding generation of community broadcasters, our services enrich and strengthen the social and cultural fabric of Australian society. 

From the outset, the formation of CBAA has been driven by and integral to sector presenting a unified and strong view to Government.   

On 3 July the Department of the Media held a conference to consult on introduction of public broadcasting and the subsequent formation of the PBAA was in part motivated by the sector’s desire to influence the outcome. Experimental community broadcasting licenses (Australia’s first experimental community radio licenses) were subsequently approved at a Cabinet meeting held on 23 September 1974. 

Today we continue to work closely with our members and the Government to underpin the sustainability and community impact of our sector into the future 

CBAA today retains the hallmarks of the original PBAA focus with our purpose to support strong and successful community broadcasters.  

The diversity of voices and the creative, unique and specialist content that broadcasters amplify remains key to the identity of our sector.  

CBAA continues to focus on increasing our capacity and the capability of all our broadcasters and our sector collectively. As technology continues to evolve, along with media audiences, we strive to support all stations with affordable, quality services to make stations accessible to all communities on all platforms. 

50 years is a long time. But it is remarkable how the vision of our founders has held up. The need for community broadcasters to work together on “common problems” remains, today we just call them “strategic priorities”! 

As a truly national association without extensive financial resources, the opportunity for us to get together and meet face-to-face is rare and does not often allow us to celebrate as much as we should.  

Although we don’t have the collective resources to get together to celebrate this birthday in person, we will make time to do so together at the CBAA Conference on the Gold Coast 17-19 October 2024, 50 years after our original members met in Sydney and put down the building blocks of our sector today. 

50 Years of Community Broadcasting - Telling Our Shared Story

John Martin OAM, the Chair of 2RPH, Past President of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and the Community Broadcasting Foundation presented this reflection on the Australian community broadcasting sector featuring figures from sector bodies and community broadcasters. Our thanks to guests including:
- The late Tony Staley AO

- Ian Stanistreet

- Keith Conlon OAM

- Penny Mulvey

- Wayne Bynder

- Ada Hulshoff

- Dr Juliet Fox

- Ange Barry

- Andy Colvin

Produced by Story Strategist.

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John Martin receives Australia Day Honours for service to radio broadcast sector.


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