Explainer: federal Budget and community media

April 28, 2021

On Tuesday 11 May 2021, the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down the 2021/22 Federal Budget.

Each year the Budget outlines the Government’s plans for the year ahead and includes forward estimates outlining plans for spending in future years.

This year’s Budget will reveal the Government’s plans to respond to the impacts of COVID-19 on our economy through stimulus and reform.

In the lead up to the 2021/22 Budget, the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA), First Nations Media Australia (FNMA) and the National Ethnic & Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council (NEMBC) have been making their submissions to Government for additional funding.

What happened in last year’s Budget?

The community broadcasting sector is predominantly funded through the ‘Community Broadcasting Program’. This includes dedicated funding for ethnic, RPH and Indigenous broadcasting. FNMA also receives a large proportion of its funding from the National Indigenous Australians Agency through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

In the 2020/21 Budget, funding for the community broadcasting sector remained largely unchanged from previous years, with some minor indexation adjustments. The forward estimates showed an anticipated drop in funding expected for the 2021/22 year from approximately $20 million to $16 million. This is because some four-year funding commitments are scheduled to end in 2021.

What we’re looking for in the 2021/22 Budget

We would like to see continued funding of several sector-wide projects, as well as additional critical support for community broadcasting stations and the communities that rely on them. This is outlined in the CBAA’s Budget submission which seeks an increase in the sector’s annual funding from $20 million to $25.3 million on an ongoing, renewed and indexed basis.

Continued funding will ensure there is no disruption to the roll out of key projects including community radio’s DAB+ digital radio broadcast services ($1.9 million), station online services ($600,000), enhanced news programming ($800,000) and enhanced training for leadership and station management skills ($600,000).

An additional $5 million will also support stations to undertake activities to build their resilience. This funding would be made available through the CBF’s Development & Operations grants which are currently oversubscribed causing significant unmet demand. This funding will support hundreds of stations to upgrade aging infrastructure and enhance their impact in their local communities. It will also support increased capacity and create employment opportunities after the economic effects of drought, natural disasters and COVID-19.

Submissions seeking additional support for ethnic and First Nations broadcasting

FNMA’s Budget submission is seeking $31.2 million to increase the sector’s capacity to serve and grow its audiences, deliver social return on investment outcomes and increase financial sustainability. Funds requested would respond to market gaps including strengthening news services, increasing jobs and skills, improving sustainability, and preserving culture and languages.

The NEMBC’s Budget submission is seeking $4.75 million over three-years to support a range of initiatives. These include establishing and sustaining multicultural community radio facilities in regional centres, supporting the multilingual news service, rolling out training to young ethnic broadcasters in regional areas, and increasing support for ethnic language programming.

Community broadcasting is more important now, than ever

This past year – first through the horrific 2019/20 bushfire season, and then throughout the pandemic, and the recent flooding in many communities – has reminded us all how important our local community radio stations are to us, particularly in times of crisis. Over 5.8 million Australians tune in to their local community broadcaster each week for news, information, comfort and company – authentic, familiar voices we trust.

The community broadcasting sector has enjoyed over four decades of support from successive Commonwealth Governments. This support is reinforced through the relationships stations develop with their local members of parliament and through the sector’s peak representative organisations developing strong relationships with a range of parliamentarians and relevant government departments.

We’ll keep you updated on the outcomes of the 2021 Budget and what it means for community broadcasters.

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