Courtney Barnett says Keep Community Radio

Community radio’s important place in Australia’s music industry

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, CBAA, 22nd January 2019

In 2018, government inquiries served as opportunities to highlight community broadcasting as a vital layer in the Australian music industry.

In submissions made to Federal and NSW government inquiries into the music industry, the CBAA shines a light on the more than 450 community radio services which provide avenues for local musicians and artists to be broadcast on airwaves across the country and streamed online around the world.

These stations are catalysts for diverse and passionate music communities that support vibrant live music scenes and the venues that host them.

They also play an important role in skills development and employment in the industry, and are a launchpad for Australian composers, songwriters, performers, and producers to expand their reach and better compete with international artists here and abroad.

Community radio offers a unique, established business model for developing the music industry at the grassroots.

Australia-wide listenership contributes to a vibrant music industry

The 2018 Community Radio National Listener Survey reported the highest listening levels ever for community radio – over a quarter (29%) of Australians aged 15 years and older listen to community radio across the country each week.

Amongst the top reasons Australians give for tuning in to community radio are specialist music programs (34%) and Australian music (29%), as well as local news and information shared by local voices and personalities. Across Australia, no less than 37% of music broadcast on community radio is from Australian artists. This well surpasses the Community Radio Broadcasting Codes of Practice quota of 25% and reflects the sector’s love and support for Australian music and dedication to supporting local arts and culture.

Community radio stations take Australian music seriously and many are leading in ensuring more is broadcast. For example, 4ZZZ in Brisbane has airplay quotas related to local music, new music and diverse music, and is working to increase these by the end of 2019. Currently the station’s Australian music quota is 30% (target 40%), local 15% (target 30%), new music 30% (remains), Indigenous (new target of 5%), and female and nonbinary 30% (target 50%). The station reports that they are surpassing all established quotas and hitting target quotas well before their 2019 goal. Since the beginning of 2018, their Australian music airplay is averaging 60%.

It is a common story that internationally successful Australian artists get their first radio play on community radio, which can be the start of long careers with continued support from community broadcasters. Examples include artists such as Dan Sultan, Gotye, The Vines, Emily Wurramara, Wolfmother, Hermitude, Jeff Lang and Courtney Barnett.

Diverse music and opportunities across Australia

The community radio sector provides a space for those not otherwise heard on air, and contributes to a diverse music industry.

Stations are also able to do this through sponsorship, partnerships, training and education. Partnering with venues, small businesses, and other community broadcasters contributes meaningfully to the vibrancy of music and arts economies in metropolitan and regional Australia, and stations are well known for doing this, particularly by hosting live music events, festivals, broadcasting live from venues and more.

Community radio stations are also well known for training and mentoring programs for musicians and artists. For example, MusicNSW and FBi Radio partner to deliver Women in Electronic Music Masterclasses, aimed at building electronic music skills across songwriting, production and further.

Community radio’s role in regional Australia is particularly important. On average, 140 hours of music programming goes to air each week on a regional or rural/remote station and community radio helps foster music and arts development by:

  • Encouraging community and commercial radio in urban and regional areas to support Australian artists.
  • Developing initiatives that foster a viable touring network in regional and remote Australia, for both local and international artists.
  • Supporting regional councils in the development of council-specific music plans to stimulate local music economies.
  • Assisting in development of online resources and support services to better support regional artists and communities.

The CBAA supports stations to air more Australian music and specialist music radio programming through its Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap), Community Radio Network (CRN) and on digital radio through its Digital Radio Project (DRP). Contributions to Australian music are also recognised in the CBAA's national community radio awards.

While community radio stations are largely self-funded, government support remains a crucial aspect of the sector's sustainability. We are extremely appreciative of the Government's decision to reinstate previous funding cuts to community radio in the 2017/18 budget ($6.1m over two years) and for the provision of additional funding for digital radio rollout, enhanced news programming, improvement online presence and industry skills development. These additional resources have been vital to the continued growth of the sector.

The CBAA continues to work closely with the Commonwealth Government and political stakeholders to ensure that community broadcasting remains viable, including through requesting ongoing funding for the sector. Relying on yearly budget decisions creates an uncertainty that is not sustainable in the long term.

We know, and the thousands of community radio volunteers across Australia know, that community broadcasting is a crucial component of Australia’s music industry. We take seriously our role in providing a voice for the sector in inquiries like these ones. 

Read the full submissions below:

This article was first published in the November 2018 edition of CBX Magazine.

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