Ethnic and multicultural broadcasters around the country could be in line for millions of dollars in extra funding, if submissions from two community radio peak bodies are successful. 

The National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters Council (NEMBC) has joined the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) in asking the Government for more money ahead of the May budget. 

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There has been a lot of change for community radio stations over the last few years, which amid funding shortfalls, have prompted these pitches. 

The CBAA is asking the Government to double its funding from around $20 million a year to over $40 million. The NEMBC has made its own pitch, asking for $2.6 million.  

Russell Anderson, the CEO of the NEMBC, says this extra funding is something ethnic and multicultural broadcasters really need at the moment. 

“We’re moving into a whole new stage of production with people post-COVID.

“Reviewing how we’re doing things and what we need to do.”

Russell says there are plenty of challenges facing the sector over the next decade as it recovers from COVID and looks to the future.

He says there are exciting digital developments to be explored and that it’s important for migrants and refugees to have support to find their voice on radio. 

He’s hopeful that will make these funding pitches quite attractive to the government. 

“I think it’s a real opportunity for Labor to get behind and be at the forefront of creating new innovation, supporting the digital opportunities we have.

“Supporting global migration, new migration patterns into the country is going to support social cohesion, social inclusion, and something which I think we really need to consider is the business opportunities, the financial resources that we can, we can do with that funding.

“We can double/triple that sort of funding for every dollar that we spend, we could value add to that by supporting that inclusion, social cohesion and the economic possibilities that we could create as well.”

In recent years the funding model for community radio stations has failed to keep pace with rising costs, leaving the sector $5 million worse off.

Stations apply for funding through grants, but according to the CBAA the sector hasn’t had the money to fund all the applications it’s had from stations. It’s fallen short by about $10 million a year for the last seven years.

Reece Kinnane from the CBAA says there have been some measures to address rising costs, but more is needed. 

“Last year, the Albanese government secured our funding at current levels and committed to keeping up with costs from now on,” he says.

“But funding levels currently remain insufficient to meet the very high demand from stations for grants to help them serve their community and have a positive impact.”

 Reece was in Parliament House in Canberra last week, making the case directly to politicians for the extra money. He’s hopeful their pitch for $20 million more a year will be successful. 

“It’s always a hard fight to get funding out of government.

“We have a very passionate champion for the sector in the Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland. 

“She has endorsed our plan for greater impact, and we hope she will champion the case for more funding from government to help us achieve it. 

“What are our chances? Look, the odds are, better than they have been in recent years.”

While a $20 million funding pitch might seem like a lot, John Budarick, a senior lecturer in the department of media at the University of Adelaide, says ethnic and multicultural broadcasters are worthy recipients. 

He says they’ve struggled financially for a long time, despite the role they play in Australia. 

“Ethnic media can provide really important information and news to their community which is actually incredibly vital for people who are both new to Australian society, but who have also been here for a long time.”

Even though there is easy access to information in so many different places now, especially online, John says community radio still has a vital role to play.

“Radio is a very powerful medium for community development and bringing people together,” he says.

“Community radio is often one of the few sites where different groups can come in and have ready access to equipment to produce their own media in their own voices and target a specific audience in their own languages.”