A man listening

The Future of Public Interest Journalism in Australia report released

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, 14th February 2018

In May 2017, a senate committee was formed to inquire into the future of public interest journalism in Australia and globally.

The committee considered what role the government should play in assisting the media sector in meeting the challenges and capitalising on the opportunities of the digital age.

Among other things, the report in its second recommendation, recommended that:

...the Commonwealth provide additional surety in future funding for the community broadcasting sector beyond the forward estimates, in particular what component will be set aside for training and education, and ensure that the sector is fully consulted in the national rollout of digital services.

Other aspects of the report focused on media ownership restrictions; the collapse of print media's business model; and the rise of “fake news”.

There were 75 submissions received by the committee, including from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and the Indigenous Remote Communications Association.

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Very few scholars of community radio in Britain have discussed funding in detail since the introduction of full-time community radio licences in the country (Lewis 1977, 2008, 2012; Lewis and Booth 1989). Some have pointed out the possible pitfalls in the British case of reliance on social objectives funding (Gordon 2009). Bearing in mind the historical development of community radio in the United Kingdom, this article, traces the contours of the origins and development of community radio under the New Labour government. It discusses how the change in the political landscape, with the landslide victory of the Labour Party in 1997, affected the social, cultural and media policies that followed. While, in the end, the sector got what it had campaigned for since the first lobbying efforts in 1977 (Lewis and Booth 1989), the current shape of the sector was much influenced by the political context after 1997 and the strategies adopted to get the legislation through in 2004.


This paper examines the changing contribution of local radio to the democratic process in Australia. It takes the whole local area approach suggested by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, to examine all the services available in three regional areas to assess their potential in facilitating public sphere discussion, disputation and deliberation, and (since the common assumption is that deregulation severely curtailed these processes) it does this in a historical frame, comparing the changes in services from 1976 to 2001. Because of its strengths in the analysis of relationships between the state (public) and private sectors, Habermas’s public sphere theory is used to frame this discussion. Recent theoretical extensions have also seen the welcome elaboration of issues of power (Fraser, 1992, 2000) and the inclusion of a new and subtle range of cultural issues (Peters, 1993; McGuigan, 1997, 2004; Keane, 1998) inside its developing literature.


Around 50 representatives from metro, sub metro and regional stations gathered to learn about the establishment and development of community digital radio, hosted by Kath Letch and featuring Phillip Randall, Chair of the Digital Radio Consultative Committee, Philip Shine, Digital Radio Project Manager, and David Sice, Technical Consultant.