The National Commission of Audit was publicly released today. It presents a number of cost-saving measures to the federal government for consideration in this year’s federal budget (due to be handed down on Tuesday 14th May 2014). Within this audit are recommendations about grant programmes, including grants provided to the Community Broadcasting sector.

Update: Community Radio has been spared in this year’s federal budget.

The recommendation is that the “Community Broadcasting Programme” grants be abolished in it’s entirety. This includes all grants administered via the Community Broadcasting Foundation, such as those for sector-wide projects including Digital Radio, AMRAP, CRN, the CBAA, and station-level grants.

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia has released a statement:

“The CBAA is liaising directly with the Department of Communications and the Communication Minister’s office for clarification. We will get back to you within the next 24 hours with more information. If necessary the CBAA is prepared to launch a national campaign to fight any moves towards abolishing the Community Broadcasting Program. Your assistance and expertise with this will be critical.”
Source: Community Broadcasting Program identified for abolition within National Commission of Audit Report recommendations, CBAA, 1st May 2014

The NCOA cites the following justification for abolition:

“The Commonwealth Government already provides over $1 billion per annum to the operation of the public broadcasters. There is a limited rationale for the Commonwealth to also subsidise community radio services. Continued government funding of this area does not meet the Report’s principles of good governance.”
Source: National Commission of Audit: Appendix Volume 2, Page 141

It is still unknown if this recommendation will be carried out by the federal government, but given the recent funding cuts and subsequent reinstatement of funding to the Digital Radio Project by the previous government, it would be safe to assume the community broadcasting grants would be strongly considered for axing or at least a significant reduction.

One thing we know for sure: it’s not a good idea to be relying on the Government exclusively for funding (or any one revenue source, for that matter), especially when there is such a huge political push to save some pennies.

What is funded by the Community Broadcasting Programme?

Funding in this program is distributed primarily by the Community Broadcasting Foundation. In their 2012/13 Annual Report, their allocation of grant funds is shown.

CBF Grant Allocation - 2012/2013

Here are more recent figures from their website.

In 2013/14 the Foundation will receive a total of $17.739 million in funding for the community broadcasting sector including:

  • $4.576 million in core funding;
  • $2.052 million in targeted funding;
  • $1.701 million in transmission support funding;
  • $0.656 million for the National Training Program;
  • $0.600 million for the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project
  • $3.126 million for Content Development; and
  • $5.028 million for the Digital Radio Project.

As one can see, a significant amount of funding for the community sector comes from these Government grants.

While cuts will ultimately affect stations and their listeners, one organisation likely to be substantially affected is the CBAA itself. According to their 2012/13 Audited Financial Statements, their revenue in that period was $5,922,990. Of this, $4,405,169 was listed as revenue from the CBF. If these government grants were cut in their entirety, it would wipe out a significant portion of income for the peak sector body.

While the CBAA was able to draw down on reserve funds last time funds were cut for the Digital Radio Project, I doubt there would be enough funds this time around to operate without cuts while a lengthy campaign took place.

Community Radio Funding Infographic (Small)

Further Reading:

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I'm Anthony Eden, and I'm a broadcast technician / software developer / technology solutions engineer. I've been working in broadcast media since 2008 (getting my start in Community Radio while still at school), and developing software and websites for just as long. Right now, I work in the broadcast industry and provide some freelance services through Media Realm.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_eden