Ethnic and multicultural media organisations are looking to build closer relationships with ethnic peak bodies.

The interest comes after there was little mention of community radio or independent ethnic media in recent funding requests by the bodies.

In the past, ethnic and multicultural community radio stations and independent media had a close relationship with the ethnic peak bodies, often sharing board or committee members.

The peak bodies are organisations like the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia (FECCA) at a national level and the state bodies around the country.

Sahana Sehgal is the station manager of Canberra Multicultural Service (CMS), the capital’s full-time ethnic radio station. She says a closer relationship between media and the peak bodies makes sense.

“I think there’s just so many benefits and it’s also a very logical thing to do for ethnic peak bodies to work with community radio stations, and ethnic radio stations specifically, because we’ve both got the community’s best interests at heart.”

The history between peak bodies and community radio is clear, with Sahana saying one of the CMS founders was also a founder of FECCA in the late 1970s.

“Back then I feel like there was just so much that was unaccomplished and there was just so much support that the ethnic community organisations needed from each other that they had a lot of incentive to work with each other,” Sahana says.

“Now, as multiculturalism is becoming so mainstream, I feel like a lot of these big bodies have much better, much bigger partners.

“I guess somewhere like community radio has kind of slipped off their radar.”

Fotis Kapetopoulos, the secretary of the Independent Multicultural Media Alliance and a senior journalist with Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos, thinks peak bodies have been forgetting about ethnic media.

“I think they have become so focused on survival, which is understandable, and securing support for the causes and programs they do, however, they have kind of missed out on what ethnic media is about,” he says.

“Even though in many ways, which I find interesting, it was ethnic media which was some of the anchors of these organisations in the past.”

Fotis would like to see peak bodies spend more money on advertising with ethnic media, but he’s also open to partnerships that have an economic benefit for papers and assist ethnic peak bodies with their advocacy.

“I think it’s incumbent upon FECCA and ECCV and ECC New South Wales and South Australia and all of them to be far more cognizant of the role that the media plays, particularly as this media is owned and run by people within the community.”

In a statement FECCA said it recognised the valuable role that multicultural community media plays in effectively engaging Australia’s diverse communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the critical need for timely, accurate, culturally, and linguistically appropriate information dissemination, revealing the risks of misinformation and the importance of trusted community media source,” the statement said.

The Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV) said it had supported ethnic media and community radio since its founding.

“ECCV has long worked with ethnic media across a range of platforms from print to radio, and we are committed to strengthening these relationships and exploring new avenues for collaboration,” ECCV chairperson, Eddie Micallef, said in a statement.

“ECCV recently partnered with 3ZZZ, 3CR and ethno-specific community radio stations to broadcast in-language segments on living well with disability and promote them in print media.

“These types of partnerships are integral to reaching communities with in-language content.”

Sahana Sehgal from CMS in Canberra says there are lots of opportunities for community radio to support the messages of peak bodies, with COVID-19 a good example of how they can work together.

“We’re all working for the benefit of the community, so I feel like that should be the end goal here.

“Our collaboration between peak bodies and community radio stations works in the favour of the community, ensures that resources are not being wasted, that we’re not doing two separate things, that we can fall back on each other.”

Sahana doesn’t blame the peak bodies for not reaching out to work together. She says the responsibility to build these relationships lies on ethnic community radio stations as well.

“It’s absolutely both of our responsibility to build it, and of course it’s also a responsibility to reciprocate.

“So if someone is actually interested in working with you, in collaborating with you, in even doing a story with you or something like that, I feel like it would be if we take the initiative or they take the initiative, then it’s our responsibility to reciprocate,” Sahana says.