Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 23 October 2008
Page: 77

Mr RAGUSE (10:28 AM) —It is with real pleasure that I rise to speak in support of the Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Radio) Bill 2008. Before I get into the detail of the bill, I will make the comment—and I take on board the comments from the member for Hinkler—that community radio particularly is a very important part of our community. Certainly the development of community radio stations over the last decade and more shows their worth to the community. In my speech on this bill I will specifically look at and concentrate on some of those issues surrounding the community radio stations in my electorate. But before I talk about those things I will give some background to the bill.

The bill states:

The Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Radio) Bill 2008 (the Bill) will amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and the Radiocommunications Act 1992 to:

  • extend the deadline for commercial broadcasters to commence digital radio services in the mainland state capital cities by six months to 1 July 2009,
  • remove the requirement for digital radio services to commence in Hobart by the extended deadline of 1 July 2009.
  • Broadcasters in Hobart will have the opportunity to commence digital radio services at the same time as other markets of comparable size, such as Geelong, Newcastle and Wollongong, and retain an option for community radio stations to take up shares in the joint venture companies managing the transmission of digital radio services.


The measures contained in this Bill are not expected to have any direct, or indirect, financial impact on Commonwealth revenue.

I would like to discuss the final measure in the bill that directly relates to community radio. The second reading speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister states:

The final measure in this bill amends the Radiocommunications Act 1992 and gives the community broadcasting sector an opportunity to participate in the ownership of the transmission infrastructure that will be used to broadcast their digital radio services.

The government is supportive of the community broadcasters’ participation in digital radio and considers that community broadcasters play a vital role in promoting diversity, local content and grassroots participation in the media sector.

Community radio is an integral part of communities such as Forde. Like many community radio stations, the stations in Forde are in need of funds. Community radio stations find it difficult to keep up with their commercial counterparts, particularly with the advancements in technology. The government decided to take a cautious approach to the introduction of public radio by reprofiling the community sector’s funding to commence in the 2009-10 financial year. As a consequence, the community sector was unable to apply for a share in the joint venture companies, formed in 2008, that own digital radio transmission infrastructure. This amendment will restore to the community broadcasting sector an opportunity to participate in the joint venture companies, in line with the original intent of the legislation introduced in May 2007.

The benefits of digital radio to the sector and to listeners are enormous. My electorate of Forde is fortunate to be served by two community radio stations—BeauFM, in Beaudesert, and BFM, in Beenleigh. In a lot of ways, they are more dominant than the commercial radio stations that cover that area generally. In fact, the listening public in the area of Forde find themselves in a bit of a black hole when it comes to commercial radio transmission, and the community radio services certainly provide a wonderful community service.

I talk frequently about the remoteness of some areas in my electorate—and if I mention Duck Creek Road again, I am sure a few people will raise their eyebrows. But it is interesting that even areas like Duck Creek Road get the transmissions from community radio. This is an area which, for a whole range of reasons, does not even get regular newspaper and mail services. So the wonderful thing about community radio in my electorate is that it is pervasive and it is out there. It reaches communities like Duck Creek Road, Mount Tamborine and Canungra. There have always been difficulties with community radio acquiring analog transmissions. This bill will offer organisations like BeauFM the opportunity to expand their audience.

I am a former media proprietor. In fact, I owned a couple of newspapers in that region. I had a very good relationship with community radio. In fact, I became a regular financial sponsor. I take on board the member for Hinkler’s comments and concerns that there is not enough funding from government. Many organisations would like government to provide more funding. That is interesting, coming from an opposition member, because the opposition think a commercial approach to most things is important. But I adhere to that view in this case because the private sector can provide certain support where it can, as I did when I was a business proprietor. The wonderful thing about community radio is that it lends itself to being very much a part of the community and being supported in many ways.

My interest in community radio goes back a long time. I have been in different roles over the years as a media person and a businessperson. I have been there and I have made comment on a whole range of things. Community radio gives the community a very direct level of news service. While the media and new services are important in my organisation, it is also very important to support a community radio station and to be able to get out a local message.

BFM in Beenleigh has taken on a training responsibility. A little later in my speech today, I will mention the opportunities we have in community radio to train young people and give them an opportunity to gain more skills in the media area. BFM, the Beenleigh station, has lots of young members and has had overwhelming success in looking at ways to allow others to receive benefits from the programs that they offer. It is a fully operational FM radio station that is set up at the Beenleigh Police Citizens Youth Club and broadcasts to the local Beenleigh community. The station is a tool for the youth development programs that run at the Beenleigh PCYC, and all funding for the station has to be generated from BFM businesses. That is one of the models I have just spoken about where businesses are involved and generate a level of revenue.

The station broadcasts 24 hours a day and offers greatest hits from all eras. Of course, one of the most difficult things for any radio station is to provide a program that people will listen to. While I am a great fan of Slim Dusty, many community radio stations tend to overplay certain genres of music. Community radio, in some cases, gets it right more often than other radio stations do. I know there is always a tussle within these organisations over what sorts of programs they run.

Regular listeners to BFM take great pride in monitoring the development of their announcers. As I said, they have a training program, which is a great way, not only for youth but for other people with the desire, to be involved in broadcasting. I am sure a number of us in this chamber have had the opportunity to be interviewed on air or have made regular visits to a radio station. Visiting a community radio station is always an enjoyable experience, probably because it is the nature of community broadcasting to be less concerned about getting leverage from the issues, particularly political issues, in our communities. As with BeauFM, many of the businesses in Beenleigh have BFM playing as background music. So it is a wonderful thing that we can continue to support community radio through the amendments we are making with this bill.

I would like to make mention of a few people who have been important in the development of those community radio stations, particularly BeauFM, which has been around since 1996. It started as a very small operation in an old caravan. Their known location was fairly mobile, because they used to move the caravan around, but they now have a very well established station with a couple of studios. As I said, it is all done on a voluntary basis through the support of the community and businesses, who see it as an essential service.

I will make two points about the notion that it is an essential service. Firstly, we should look at the responsibility at local government level to consider how they might better support local radio. In the region I come from, while the local council at times provides funds for advertising or sponsorship of public announcements, I think it would be legitimate for local authorities to commit more funding to their local community radio station by making them the public announcer for events or whatever other information they want to put out. Secondly, one of the reasons the community radio network was established was to provide an emergency response. People probably do not realise that the capacity to respond in an emergency is one of the things that community radio provides to an area. While it is not called on very often, in my area we know that they are geared up to transmit in times of an emergency. It is a very important reason why community radio should exist.

I would like to thank a number of people who have been involved over the years. Jim Dennis, who was a presenter for many years, helped to develop the radio station from its beginnings. Jim had always been passionate about good quality radio and, can I say, he was one of the people who turned Beau FM into a station of some note for news and local commentary. Councillor Dave Cockburn in the last 10 years has been heavily involved in getting Beau FM to the point at which it currently sits. While he has his responsibilities as deputy mayor of the Scenic Rim Regional Council, he still gives an enormous amount of his time to supporting broadcasting and a whole range of other things. Doug Drescher has been a long-term member of the station and one of the people who helped get the station established. I have mentioned the importance of training. One of their noted presenters is a fellow called ‘Nugget’, who in the region is well known. The name Nugget might suggest that he plays a lot of Slim Dusty, but he mixes it up. He plays lots of different things and is a very good, much revered announcer.

Mr Gray —Country and western!

Mr RAGUSE —Country and western—that is right. Mark O’Brien is also a very talented on-air presenter and he has put a lot of work into the radio station. And Alf Sander, who just turned 90 years of age, is still a very active on-air announcer and provides some wonderful soundtracks for people who like listening late at night. I should also commemorate the late Rex Rodgers as he was very much a part of establishing the radio station and put in a lot of work over the years.

Before I close, I would like to sum up by saying that I support this bill and certainly the aspects that support the development of community radio. I think community radio is a vital part of many communities, particularly those that are outside of capital cities. In regions like my area it is absolutely necessary, even to those people in Duck Creek Road, because it is an important service and one of the only services they tend to get in that region.

When I mentioned training I should have said that there is a great model for training in community radio in the Smithfield high school just north of Cairns. In a former role, when I was heavily involved in media, it was one high school that I visited just to see what they were doing with their community radio licence. There is an amazing amount of training that they put through that high school, training of a very high level.

In closing, I support this bill. The role it plays and support it gives to local communities is very important. With that, I commend this bill to the House.