Funding for community radio stations’ participation in digital radio broadcasting was first allocated in 2009. At the time, planning wasn’t yet complete and the full cost of the roll out wasn't known. A ‘base funding’ amount was allocated based on estimated costs.
As planning continued, and the full cost became known, it was clear that the base funding was not adequate to provide community radio stations affordable access to digital radio broadcasting. Community broadcasters access digital broadcasting infrastructure on a commercial basis, so they were (and continue to be) required to meet these increased costs.
In 2013, the outgoing Labor Government addressed this with a $1.4 million boost per year, allocating funds over the forward estimates. There was an understanding this would be subsequently made ongoing and this is affirmed by the recent Labor commitment to funding the ongoing shortfall.
Labor’s decision to only budget for the forward estimates, and the Coalition Government’s decision not to address this issue in the 2016 Budget mean that current funding does not cover the recurring costs of maintaining existing community radio services on digital radio.
Community radio has enjoyed cross-partisan support ever since a Coalition Government signed the first community radio licences in 1975. This continues today, with all parties expressing support for the public benefit of community broadcasting.
The Labor Party has committed to reinstating the $1.4 million for community digital broadcasting if elected. The Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and others have also committed their support.
In the spirit of continued cross-partisan support, we eagerly await an announcement by the Coalition that they too would reinstate funding to maintain existing community broadcasters on digital radio if elected.