Commission of Audit puts media diversity at risk

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The Federal Government’s Commission of Audit report has revealed bad news for media diversity with Australia’s community broadcasting sector set to take the biggest hit if the report’s recommendations are adopted.

The report has recommended the abolition of $17.7 million in funding support for over 350+ community broadcasting organisations, approximately 20,000 volunteers and a weekly audience of over 5 million Australians.

In justifying the recommendation the report stated that “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.”

The commission’s recommendation comes after a 2013 funding crisis with the then ALP Government affecting the sector’s digital radio services. The crisis led to the Commit To Community Radio campaign which resulted in the eventual reinstatement of the funds in the final hours of the Gillard Government.

The Community Broadcasting Association of Australia released a statement to its members saying “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.”

If adopted the recommendation would have a serious impact on a wide range of services for ethnic, youth, indigenous, religious, print handicapped and mature age communities as well as music and cultural communities underserved or ignored by other media sectors. Cuts to community services could also prove to be tricky for National Party MPs whose electorates make up a large number of the 34% of stations acting as the sole providers of local programming.

The community broadcasting sector will now be nervous heading into the May budget and awaiting signs of support from Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull. The Department of Communications and the minister have yet to make a formal statement.

UPDATE: The CBAA has issued a new media release with CBAA President Adrian Basso saying “The recommendation from the Commission of Audit shows a complete lack of understanding of the community broadcasting sector and the significant contribution it makes to media diversity in the country” You can read the full release here: CBAA Commission of Audit statement


Disclaimer: The author is a board member of the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. His views are his own and do not represent those of the association or his employer.

What you can do:

Read and share the facts about community broadcasting.

– Sign up to Commit To Community Radio and follow the CBAA for the latest updates. If further campaigning is needed this will be your best source of information.

– Tell Malcolm Turnbull and your local MP how important media diversity is to you and not to cut from community broadcasting.

– Tell your friends and family that this is a very real threat to a vital platform for many in our community.

– Tell other media outlets to cover this story. In amongst all of the other proposed cuts this story is too important to be lost.

I will continue to update as we learn more about the situation. If you believe in a diverse, independent media which the whole community has meaningful access to please spread the word however you can.


Boys and girls will be hurt by a return to “tradition”

Land of masculinity

Right now Australians are scrambling to understand what’s “gone wrong” with young people. Whether it’s questioning the culture of alcohol fuelled violence that is dominating news or commentary about the lack of culture amongst the younger generations there are many commentators and public figures ready to share their solutions for how to fix Australia’s young people.

For South Australian senator Cory Bernardi it’s a return to traditional families or for parenting author Maggie Dent it’s a returning a “stolen boyhood” to young boys, but these calls for Australians to return to tradition (particularly for young men) are reactionary, out dated and dangerous.

Bernardi’s comments have been well documented, discussed and challenged by many, but commentary like Dent’s shares many of the same values as Benardi, but often goes unchallenged.

In her piece on “stolen boyhood” Dent suggests “We need to seriously consider giving boys back their boyhoods and opportunities for authentic growth in the company of good men, or we are going to continue seeing more and more ‘coward-hitting’ warriors wreaking havoc in our communities.”

The problem with Dent’s analysis is that boys don’t fit into the narrow concept of “boyhood” and never have. Not all men are “warriors” as she suggests and they shouldn’t be expected to fit into that box. You don’t fight a warrior culture by creating more warriors.

Centuries of gender history and research have shown us that masculinity and femininity have had a diverse range of interpretations across many different cultures and aren’t a static natural state. By continuing to define masculinity in such a narrow way we entrench many of the identity issues young men face.

Boys and girls will be hurt by a return to tradition because traditional gender roles and structures don’t match what modern Australia needs. Gender roles are changing because they need to change and because young boys and girls who don’t fit those traditions are being hurt by cultural expectations to be something they are not.

A great example of the movement against tradition is Soften The Fck Up – a cultural change movement led by young people trying to challenge traditional ideas of masculinity. Recognising the high rate of mental health issues for young men the campaign questions the masculine stereotype of needing to “harden up” rather than deal with emotional issues. Young Australians are creating movements like Soften The Fck Up because traditional gender roles are broken and more diverse, accepting and modern gender roles need to take their place.

What many traditionalists struggle to comes to terms with is that as the role of men changes so do the privilege structures that have benefitted men and disadvantaged women for centuries. Protecting traditional ideas of masculinity are really a protection of privilege.

We see this in many of the debates about what makes a healthy family. Despite a growing amount of evidence that non-traditional families (such as queer families) can thrive we hear a constant push for tradition over evidence. In some cases children of queer parents can even exceed their traditional family equivalents on some indicators. The presence of a man and woman does not necessarily equal a healthy family.

Outdated gender roles and social structures exacerbate the identity issues we’re seeing in the news – they are not the fix. When those who benefit from the privileges of these traditional structures cling tight to their memories of the past we lose the opportunity for our community to grow, evolve and create a more understanding environment for Australia’s young people.

Our world and our community are different now and our gender roles need to reflect that. Returning to an age where men are emotionless “warriors” playing a pre-determined role and ignoring their  true diversity will only serve to damage men and women and entrench these issues further.


Luke Ablett has also written a great reflection on similar issues:

Image sourced from “independentman”.

“Progressives are losing the language war” – SBS News


“If language is being used as bullets – then conservatives are using bazookas and flamethrowers whilst progressives are firing back on their own. The problem for progressives is that whilst they preach to the already converted –  conservatives are taking control of broader cultural language and winning.”

Today I wrote a piece for SBS News about how progressives in Australia are losing the language war. You can read the full piece here.


What we should demand from media coverage this election

Australia Votes

Since Julia Gillard announced an election date for Australians back in January it’s felt like we’ve been in one of the most extended campaigns ever seen in Australian politics. Even with a change in leadership to Kevin Rudd (and a now uncertain election date) it feels even more so that the campaign is well underway.

With “campaign mode” also comes the usual critical eye over our media – who is covering what? What questions are being asked? What questions aren’t? Who are the influencers and what roles do they have to play? It seems that each electoral cycle the same criticisms reemerge. Too much personality, not enough policy. Too many stunts, not enough detail. Too much negativity, not enough vision. Yet as media consumers we surely must accept that most Australians will stray to the light and fluffy than the hard detail. We have to accept that we play a role in the media that gets served to us and if we want better – we must demand it. Here are some of the things that Australians should demand from our media this election.

Lay off the polls

The polls are a favourite plaything of most media outlets and even I can admit to finding the week to week fluctuations of the polls as a source of intrigue and entertainment – but that’s all they are: Entertainment. The polls give us a vague idea of the trends in the electorate, but the obsession with them needs to calm down. Especially when you consider that the fluctuations are often within the margin of error anyway. This year PLEASE lay off the polls.


Can we please get some new voices in the mix? In the 24 hour news cycle I understand that there’s a lot of airtime and white space to fill, but there are thousands of competent writers, broadcasters and commentators who can bring something different to the mix. Our commentators should reflect the diversity of our society and not just the political binary. If I hear any more of what Mark Latham thinks about topic X or Y I’m going to scream.

Ask some actual questions

It’s tempting to chase the scoop or the “gotcha moment” and many of these have defined journalist’s careers, but please ask some actual questions (And preferably about policy at that). How many times do we have to tune into a media conference to hear 20 versions of the same question slightly rephrased in a desperate attempt to make the politician slip up? If you’re going to wedge a politician in a media conference – at least wedge them on a policy issue.

Speed does not = quality

Let’s face it – Twitter is going to go bonkers over the next couple of months and it’s a tempting source of live information. We will also have more citizen journalists producing their own work than ever before, but please don’t pull a CNN and choose speed over quality. Not only does it look bad when you get it wrong, but it breaks our trust as media consumers. If you do mess up, own up to it, take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again and move on.

Listen to us

This election isn’t about the media. It isn’t about the politicians. It isn’t about their parties. It’s about us – the citizens. It’s about the human impact that these people, their ideologies and their policies will have on our lives for months, years and even decades to come. Now it’s more important than ever to listen to your audiences and find out what they want to know. I accept that a number of factors influence what ends up on our screens and in our papers, but look past the surface, dig deeper into our communities and listen.

As media consumers in the free market we won’t get what we want from our media unless we demand it. If you want the quality of coverage to improve this election contact the stations, the editors, the comment sections and tell them what you want – and if you don’t get it? Make it yourself and lead by example.

This piece has also been published over at AusNPAC. I also put the call out to ask what you would demand if you could ask one thing of the media this election.  Read the responses and join the conversation here or on Twitter @JB_AU

What if you could demand one thing from our media this election?

Australia Votes

In writing a new piece about how we can demand better coverage from our media this election I asked my Twitter followers if they could demand one thing from our media this election – what would it be? Here are some of the responses.

Debs made a suggestion regarding the use of language about asylum seekers:

Ed called for more “important stories”

Lots of discussion about assessing claims and getting the facts:

On policy:

Less “horse race” politics (From Tumblr)

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On wasted opportunities:

What are your thoughts? Comment below or get in touch @JB_AU

It’s time for you to do something.

Has the last month of Australian politics worn you out? Are you tired? Are you sick of the same old drama rearing its head on our national stage? Is your apathy rising?

It’s more important than ever that you don’t switch off. It’s time for you to do something.

We can’t expect better from our community unless we demand better from ourselves and from the people around us.

Traditional politics and party structures may have turned stale, but we help no one by sitting on the sidelines and complaining. You can make change in your own community without needing a politician to do it for you. The smallest actions and positive gestures can  have a major impact on improving the lives of all Australians

Frustrated by sexism? Have that tough conversation with a family member about their behaviour.

Sick of homophobia? Challenge your mates when they make homophobic jibes.

Disgusted by racism? Fight the stereotypes.

Stand up and be the change you want to see.

Australia has some of the highest volunteering rates in the world. You’d be surprised how many people also want to see change happen and are willing to stand up and change it for themselves.

So I issue you a challenge:

Next time you’re angry about something in our community pick up the phone and ask a friend “what can we do to change this?”.

Call a community organisation and ask “How can I help?”.

Write to that person you admire for making change and give them the support and the inspiration to keep going.

No matter how big or small your contribution – do something and you never know – your gesture of change could lead to change in our whole community. It has to start from somewhere.

Change only happens when we do something.

What ways do you see people making change in your community? What projects or organisations are you involved in? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @JB_AU