Community radio should be cut off

Staff Writer

This opinion piece was sent to Radio Today by Josh who is the Senior Digital Producer at Fairfax Radio in Brisbane.

The CBAA’s ‘Commit to Community Radio’ campaign is in full swing, with support from more than 40,000 Australians, including ARIA award winner Gotye, legendary broadcasters Roy & HG and John Safran and a personal idol, Andrew Denton, and yet, I think community radio’s ‘digital future’ isn’t on digital radio and it should be cut off from DAB funding.

I am community radio stock, born and bread on community radio Mackay, so I’m not a snobby commercial radio fool that wants to snuff out the competition. It was just over a decade ago I stumbled into 4CRM hoping to support the station and become a financial supporter, instead they put me in a studio to play with the console, use the compact disc players and discover the minidisc collection. Stan Hillard showed me how to panel a show and taught me some basics about the art of radio broadcasting, Alan Berry taught me not to be an idiot and so many passionate volunteers there taught me how to love my community and how to produce radio content for Aboriginal, jazz, country music and elderly groups.

That whole experience at 4CRM was a major footstep into my radio career and I only have positive thoughts and thanks for the station and its volunteers, but public funding for 4CRM, or SYN, or any other community station to establish themselves on digital radio is a waste of taxpayer money, in my humble opinion, and here’s why.

If you talk to any content director in the country they’ll echo the mantra that ‘content is king’ and niche content has always been community radio’s main goal.

Whether the content is niche in a geographic sense, or niche in a taste or culture sense, community radio has been a long time champion of the minorities that Southern Cross Austereo, DMG, ARN and Fairfax have ignored, and going into the ‘digital future’ for those groups that are still calling out for relevant, entertaining, informative content doesn’t need to be on DAB, why not podcast?

Most people that read this will be familiar with podcasts that have been ripped off the station logger then re-purposed in an mp3 and put online. But let me share with you a story of success that never made it onto AM, FM or DAB.

Earlier this year Steve Molk and I started a podcast called the Thing Committee, asked a few friends to join us on “air” to be an authority on whether something is a “thing” or not, we put those mp3′s online, and after ten episodes we’ve been downloaded more than 60,000 times.

A simple entertainment podcast that’s cost us a few dollars in hosting, very low costs in production, and thankfully, the support of my manager to use our studios.

Without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on DAB transmitters, we’ve reached a larger audience than my first breakfast shift on commercial radio ever reached.

There are some community broadcasters doing amazing work. The work they’re doing is that good that it’s being supported by listeners and sponsors. I don’t know their budgets but I know when I was on the board of directors of 4CRM 10 years ago our monthly budget was smaller than most country announcer’s pay packets. Hopefully those broadcasters that are doing well can support their own move to DAB.

The others, they should save their money and make podcasts not costly AM, FM or DAB signals.

If community radio is about having a place on the FM/AM/DAB ‘dial’ then by all means, ask Uncle Conroy for an allowance.

But if community radio is about creating unique niche content, training up the radio stars of the future, and telling stories that no-one else is telling, community radio should be cut off and if it was to get any funding, it should be to learn how to edit an audio file, how to upload it and list it on Stitcher, iTunes and other podcast directories.

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