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Royal Commission recognises role of community radio

Holly Friedlander Liddicoat, 30th October 2020
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The CBAA is pleased to see the community broadcasting sector and the value of broadcasting recognised by the Federal Government's Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. 

Community radio stations play a vital role broadcasting emergency information and connecting communities through natural disasters - whether fire, cyclone or flood. Throughout the bushfires that impacted much of Australia during the summer of 2019-2020, over 80 community broadcasting services either broadcast emergency information or played a vital role connecting and comforting local communities.

The CBAA made a submission to the process. The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements presented its report to the Governor-General on 28 October 2020. The report was tabled in Parliament on 30 October 2020.

The report recognised the strength of community radio to reach diverse audiences.

Community radio stations also offer an important source of information during emergencies, particularly for Australians living in remote communities. Each week, approximately six million Australians listen to over 450 community radio stations. For many Australians, community radio is the only source of news and information available in their region.

The report noted the strengths of broadcast media more broadly, its ability to reach regional Australians, and the strength of broadcast infrastructure.

Broadcast media, such as the ABC and community radio, provide information to isolated and rural communities when they are unable to receive landline or mobile phone communication, use the internet or watch television. We are encouraged by steps taken by some states to improve the delivery of critical information to broadcast media so that it can, in turn, be provided to the public in a timely manner.13.6 

The CBAA recommended that the states and territories' emergency services explore ways to improve their relationships with community broadcasters, to ensure stations are briefed with the latest emergency information. Stronger relationships between community radio stations and their main emergency services body, like in Victoria, ensures that community broadcasters who wish to undertake emergency broadcasting are connected to the emergency information source and understand their responsibilities.

State and territory governments should explore how to improve engagement between emergency managers and media representatives before, during and after natural disasters.13.125 All state and territory governments (and relevant emergency service agencies, as appropriate) should provide timely warnings and public information to appropriate broadcast media to maximise the potential for critical information to reach the public.13.126

The CBAA also recommended that there is need for ongoing and optimised funding for the sector, via the Federal Government's Community Broadcasting Program, to ensure stations in regional and rural areas are best resourced, trained and equipped to continuing providing emergency information and supporting community resilience. The CBAA is continuing to work with the office of Minister Fletcher and the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications to ensure the funding for the sector is optimised and extends beyond what is currently highlighted in the Forward Estimates.

The CBAA was also pleased to see the sector recognised in the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee's inquiry "Lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20" - read more.

For further information, please contact CBAA's Project Coordinator (Government Relations) Holly Friedlander Liddicoat on holly.friedlander@cbaa.org.au

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