Political sponsorship of community radio broadcasting stations - FAQs


Below, we answer some frequently asked questions (FAQs) around political sponsorship of community radio broadcasting stations.

If your community broadcasting station is considering entering into a political sponsorship arrangement, it’s a good idea to discuss your station’s individual circumstances with your Member of Parliament/Senator or their support staff about all the rules that apply.

Notes: If we have placed a word or phrase in italics below, it means that the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (the BSA) has defined the word or phrase for us. When we say ‘you’ or ‘your station,’ we are referring to community radio broadcast licensees, licenced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (the ACMA) under the BSA.

1. Regarding interviews with politicians: is it discriminatory to only invite interviews with sitting Senators or Members of Parliament (Federal)?

In itself, the issue isn’t about whether a person is sitting or not sitting at the time. The issue more depends whether there is an election imminent in your area or not.

If no election is pending, then the answer is no, provided you are abiding by all other relevant rules. Engaging with a variety of people, parties and viewpoints is strongly encouraged – including sitting Senators and Members of Parliament, and non-sitting politicians.

If there is an election to be held in your area, it is even more important to provide equal access to different political parties and we encourage stations to engage broadly politically to ensure listeners have access to broad political debate.

But if there is an election to be held in your area, what you talk about during your conversation with a Senator or Member of Parliament is restricted in certain ways by law. If you would like to know more about the rules that apply to such arrangements, some that apply only during elections, and some that apply during election blackout periods, feel free to contact the CBAA.

However, community radio broadcasting licensees must strictly prevent any sponsorship arrangement from affecting editorial decisions about programming content or scheduling, and must prevent a political party, the Commonwealth, or a State/Territory, from being in a position to exercise control of your community broadcasting licence. Community radio broadcasting licensees should prevent conflicts of interest when considering any sponsorship arranagement. For more on paid political sponsorship, also see the answer to Q. 2 below.

(Note: A community radio station’s licensee’s ‘sitting member’ means the Member of Parliament for your community (electoral area) at the time, or representing your State/Territory if they are a Senator. Members and Senators are elected by your community to represent the interests of your community, or by your State/Territory to represent the interests of your State/Territory, respectively. This is a key feature of our representative democracy. They will either belong to one particular political party, or they will stand independently from any political party (independents). This becomes important as the other rules come into play.

2. Are there any Commonwealth guidelines/prohibitions for entering into paid political sponsorship with politicians other than sitting Members, or Senators?

The simple answer to this question is, no. However, your station and the relevant person, should be aware that:

  • their agreement with your station may be impacted by certain rules that apply at all times, as well as the rules that apply during elections in your area (see above), and
  • there may be times when the person has paid for a sponsorship arrangement including sponsorship announcements during a certain show or as part of your coverage, but you are obligated to invite other politicians to speak on that show or as part of your equal access to coverage (see above).

Any sponsorship agreement in place at your station should take into account (and make way for) those rules.

Note: For an explanation of ‘sitting member,’ please see the answer to Q 1, above.

3. Can community radio stations enter into more than one paid political sponsorship arrangement running at any one time, e.g. Federal, State and Local Government representatives?

We are not aware of any rules that would prevent this, provided all other relevant rules are complied with (see the answers to Q.’s 1 and 2, and the list of the rules that apply, below).

Of course, community radio broadcasting licensees:

  • must prevent the turning over of control of your community radio broadcasting licence (discussed above), and

should consider whether any one or more sponsorship arrangement creates a conflict of interest and have a plan for the way your station would respond to such a situation.

4. Can Members of Parliament (MPs) purchase community radio broadcasting sponsorship using office expenses under Commonwealth law?

Certain MPs can, yes, but only in regional licensing areas, in accordance with quite specific qualifying criteria and other rules, which are summarised below.

Rules around office expenditure and broadcasting on community radio are dealt with in 66(2), (2A), (2B) of the Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017 (the Parliamentary Business Regulations).

In a nutshell, what do these Parliamentary Business Regulations rules say?

  • Who can enter into agreements using this office expenditure exception?
    • Community radio broadcasting licensees who hold a regional community radio broadcasting licence (where regional community radio broadcasting licence means a community radio broadcasting licence under the BSA) that has a regional licence area, and
    • serving Members of the House of Representatives (i.e. Members of Parliament serving in the lower house of Federal Parliament),
  • Where?
    • in the regional community where the broadcasting licensee’s area covers the same area as the electorate of the serving Member.
  • What kinds of on-air community radio conversations are the Members of Parliament prevented from having?
    • Touting/lobbying (“soliciting”) for votes to be given to another person,
    • Touting/lobbying for any kind of support other than volunteering, to be provided to a member, political party or candidate,
    • Touting/lobbying for applications to join or renew membership in a political party; and
    • Providing instructions on how to complete a ballot paper.

Where can I find out more about this office expenses rule in the Parliamentary Business Regulations?

The Department of Finance’s Ministerial and Parliamentary Services have explained and summarised some of the key rules on their page entitled Conditions for Claiming – Broadcasting on Television or Radio. We recommend that you review them closely.

They include the overarching obligations that must be considered, several specific restrictions, and many exceptions to the rules; but the information on that page is presented in way that is easy to understand and helpful examples have been provided.


If you have any questions about the office expenses rule in the Parliamentary Business Regulations after reading the Parliamentary ‘Office expenses – Restrictions' guidance material, Members of Parliament are encouraged to contact The Department of Finance's Ministerial and Parliamentary Services directly with their questions, for answers that fit their circumstances. Their service is not designed to field enquiries directly from community radio stations. Members of Parliament may contact Ministerial and Parliamentary Services via:

5. Is your community radio station considering entering into a paid political sponsorship arrangement?

The CBAA is interested in hearing from all community radio licensees who are interested in entering into a paid political sponsorship arrangement with a Member of Parliament (or Senator) under the Parliamentary Business Resources Regulations 2017 since the rules changed in June 2020. Please contact us on the numbers/email addresses below to let us know.

More information

Please feel welcome to contact the CBAA’s Member Support Team on 02 9310 2999, or email us via [email protected]; or obtain independent legal advice if you are not sure.

For detailed information on the relevant rules and how to apply them, see: