New licensing improvements

March 16, 2023
Parliament House in Canberra at dusk. White building has lights on glowing through the windows with an Australian flag flying above the building

A bill to support community broadcasting (the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Community Radio Bill 2022) passed earlier this month.  The Bill will streamline licensing, provide greater certainty for stations, and enhance the sustainability of the community broadcasting sector. 

CBF CEO Jo Curtin congratulated the sector’s peak body the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) for this achievement. “Regulatory improvements have lasting, meaningful impact and come about when the community sector works in partnership with Government. This is why we proudly support the sector’s coordinated policy development and advocacy work. This continued support helps create an environment where community broadcasting thrives and the whole community benefits.” 

Minister for Communications, the Hon Michelle Rowland spoke to the Bill in parliament. 

“These reforms are consistent with the government’s commitment to support the sustainability of the community broadcasting sector and better reflect its important role in the diversity of Australia’s media and broadcasting environment,” she said. 

Jon Bisset, CEO of Community Broadcasting Association of Australia has thanked the Minister for progressing the Bill in a busy Parliamentary period and thanked MPs for their strong bi-partisan support of the sector. 

“On behalf of all community radio stations and community TV the CBAA thanks the Parliament for their strong acknowledgement of the contribution our sector makes to the cultural and social fabric of the nation.  I also thank Parliament for bi-partisan support of this bill, which will make it easier for existing community radio stations to renew their licences, removing uncertainty by ensuring it is a non-competitive process. 

“The Bill also allows the regulator (the Australian Communications and Media Authority) to be flexible in setting renewal deadlines and in providing advanced notice of broadcasting licence commencement dates,” he said. 

MPs and Senators from all parties addressing the bill made a special effort to thank their local station volunteers for their commitment to their local communities. 

“…to the thousands of Australians across the country who volunteer and work in community broadcasting and, more particularly, to the thousands—in fact, millions—of Australians who rely upon community broadcasting for their music and news this is just so very, very important.” Andrew Wallace MP, Member for Fischer. 

“To our community radio stations, I genuinely say, for your unwavering service to our community, thank you. I mean that. You have been there for our communities, so thank you,” said Pat Conaghan MP, Member for Cowper. 

MPs and Senators also acknowledged the essential role community radio plays in an increasingly concentrated media environment as one of the only remaining local sources of news and information, particularly in regional and remote communities. 

“Community radio is an essential element in the jigsaw that makes up our media landscape, offering diversity through a range of voices at a time when there has been disturbing concentration in the mainstream media,” said Zoe Daniel MP, Member for Goldstein. 

“It’s become even more important to have community broadcasting, with the lack of diversity that we see in our mainstream broadcasting these days,” said Susan Templeman MP, Member for Macquarie. 

Regional MPs noted how important community broadcasting services have been during bushfires, COVID and continuing floods. 

“In the Northern Territory, as in other regional, rural and remote areas, it’s the heart of local communities and the essential way that people learn about what’s going on and connect with others,” said Luke Gosling MP, Member for Solomon. 

“Without them—I said this before; I wasn’t overegging it—people in emergencies, particularly in fire emergencies, would die if they did not have those signals, those alerts, those updates and that information which is given on an instantaneous basis, whether it’s bushfires, floods or severe thunderstorm warnings,” said The Hon Michael McCormack MP, Member for Riverina.