Community broadcasting sector responds to extra funding in media reform package

The community broadcasting sector has already ear-marked the extra funding it is getting as part of the Federal Government’s media reforms.

Passed by the Senate last week, the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Broadcasting Reform) Bill 2017 will provide $12 million in additional funding and an extension on licensing for community television.

“This additional funding will support community digital radio, enhanced community radio news services, streaming services and training, as well as the extension of licensing for community television,” said Jon Bisset, CEO of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia in a statement.

Bisset was pleased that, once again, the sector received support across the political spectrum:

He noted that backing came from the Government, Australian Labor Party, Nick Xenophon Team, Senator Hinch, Senator Lambie, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and the Australian Greens.

The main thrust of the overall reforms include abolishing the “two-from-three” media control rule, which now allows one media organisation to own a radio station, TV station and a print outlet in the one city.

It also abolished the 75% audience reach which previously stopped commercial TV licensees from having a combined reach that was greater than 75% of the Australian population.

It also places an obligation on regional commercial TV in providing more local programming.

Opponents of the media changes argue that this would  mean less media voices offering opinions.

But Communications Minister Mitch Fifield asserts that the reforms brought the laws “into the 21st century” and were necessary if Australian media outlets were to be protected from the growing onslaught of overseas social media companies as Facebook and Google.

Bisset said of the reforms, “(They) will impact on radio broadcasters across all sectors. Most importantly, though, these changes will impact all Australians and their communities.

“Access to diverse media is a cornerstone of an open society, strong democracy and vibrant culture, and local content production gives a platform for sharing local voices and stories critical to building strong communities.

“5.3 million people listen to community radio in Australia each week and these 450+ community radio services make crucial contributions to media diversity and local free-to-air content today and will continue to do so as the full impact of these reforms is realised.”

As part of the 2017-18 Budget, in May the Federal Government provided $6.1 million over two years for community radio to increase its digital radio offerings, and one-off spectrum reorganisation costs for analogue radio services.

This was in addition to the $15 million per annum already provided through the Community Broadcasting Program.

Of this funding, $1.9 million were allocated in 2017-18 and $2 million in 2018-19 to assist with the cost of digital broadcasting.

This included the planned expansion of digital radio to permanent services in Hobart, Canberra, Darwin and the Gold Coast.

The Government will allocate the remaining $2.2 million funding in 2017-18 to assist community radio broadcasters affected by the implementation of the Australian Communication and Media Authority’s long term strategy for the 803-960MHz band.

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