It all started with a fart.
My cousin and I giggled like crazy when we discovered a sound effects CD entirely dedicated to farts at the local community radio station in Horsham, Victoria. Our grandpa took us for a grand tour of the local station and for a special guest appearance on his evening show “Jazz with Jim”. It was one of the most special experiences of my childhood and ignited a passion that now drives me in my work every day. It was special because I could see first hand the power in giving underrepresented voices in our community a platform.
It’s a story replicated in over 350+ community radio stations across Australia. Community radio represents an authentic community voice for everything from local arts and music, to perspectives on language and culture, to religion or those with living with disability. Community radio gives a platform to people who are not being heard anywhere else. A vital platform to ensure that all Australians are supported to have a voice in the media.
After my first taste of community radio and with my farting sound effects CD in hand I went back home to Adelaide and my passion for radio bubbled away for years until I was given the opportunity in my late teens to volunteer for Radio Adelaide – a community radio station with over 40 years of history promoting and supporting diversity. The station gave me the opportunity to learn about cultures and people I could have never imagined – it gave me the opportunity to hear from amazing Australians whom I otherwise would have never met. As a young person in the Australian community Radio Adelaide was the first to place to treat my voice in the media as one that was as valuable and valid as anybody else’s.
That experience had such a positive impact on me that I now work for SYN Media – a youth led media organisation and community broadcaster that gives thousands of young people access to media platforms. My work is dedicated to making sure that the values of community broadcasting are available and accessible to thousands of young people each year – that young people in the community have access to a platform that treats them with respect and respects the diversity and voices of their communities.
I see thousands of young people each year take up the opportunity to learn media skills and access media platforms on par with our public and commercial media counterparts. Seeing these talented young people on a daily basis gives me great inspiration and hope that despite the turmoil in the media industry of late, the future of the media is a positive one.
However, things aren’t looking so positive for Australia’s community broadcasters. With the future of broadcasting tied to digital technologies, community broadcasters are fighting to receive the necessary Government support to maintain access to digital radio. If community broadcasters can’t share digital platforms on par with their public and commercial counterparts their long term future is at risk. To combat this, today the community broadcasting sector is asking Senator Stephen Conroy, local MPs and the Australian community to Commit to Community Radio.
Millions of Australians listen to community radio, but even if you don’t – this is an issue that impacts you. A diverse media is vital to a functioning and fair democracy. As former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner says in his 2010 book Sideshow:
There is another part of the radio scene that offers some hope: community radio. Australia now has over 250 community stations, reflecting amazingly diverse niche audiences, including some — like Melbourne’s 3RRR — that are as popular as some commercial stations. Community radio offers a point of connection based on locality or interest that treats political issues seriously. Particularly in regional Australia, community radio is an emerging component of democratic engagement that few in the Canberra hothouse understand.
Community radio is truly community led and allows those not represented by the commercial or public media the opportunity to participate meaningfully in our democracy through media. At a time where media diversity and business models are in flux it’s more important than ever to ensure there is a strong community voice in the media.
What started as an eight year old giggling over a CD of fart sounds and an introduction to the sometimes quirky side of community radio has turned into a lifelong commitment and personal mission. My mission is to ensure as many Australians as possible have meaningful access to the information, skills and platforms to have an authentic stake in our media and our democracy. I truly believe community radio is part of the mix that will help to make this happen.
I am committed to community radio and you can commit to. Head to http://committocommunityradio.org.au/ and tell Senator Stephen Conroy and your local MP that media diversity should be underpinned by a strong community media sector with a digital future.