The future delivery of radio services in Australia

ACMA Issues Paper - Response of First Nations Media Australia
Digital media Indigenous and community media Community broadcasting Australia

This submission responds to the ACMA’s Future Delivery of Radio in Australia Issues Paper, published in April 2019. It considers the regulatory framework which underpins Indigenous broadcasting in Australia and the drivers and impact of changing audience needs.

First Nations broadcasting, referred to within government policy as Indigenous broadcasting, performs all of the functions of general radio broadcasting, employing around 450 people nationally. In addition, First Nations broadcasting maintains and strengthens Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, significantly contributes to the maintenance and revitalisation of Indigenous languages, contributes a First Nations perspective to Australia’s national dialogue and educates both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander audiences and the broader community on matters relevant to First Nations communities. First Nations radio is an essential component of truth-telling processes and the expression of First Nations voices. F

Key Findings:

  • Radio remains a key communication tool for First Nations communities. Although significant technological advancements have been made to supplement the radio medium, none have surpassed it for accessibility, immediacy, affordability, and geographic reach. Continued access to radio is an essential service to communities across the country and achieves a number of desired social outcomes for governments and the broader populations alike. This includes, but is not limited to, emergency information, health and education services, social inclusion and the timely delivery of locally and nationally relevant news services.
  • There is significant diversity in access to new radio delivery mechanisms, particularly where platforms are reliant on internet access. This includes differences in audience requirements in cities, regional towns and remote locations, as well as barriers to First Nations audiences across all geographic locations resulting from the impact of colonization and associated socioeconomic pressures. AM and FM spectrum continues to be an essential mechanism for servicing First Nations communities.
  • Eric Wilmot’s 1984 Out of the Silent Land report recommended Government “accepts a special responsibility for the promotion and protection of Aboriginal cultural identity in ways considered appropriate by Aborigines and this should be reflected in the broadcasting and telecommunication policies. There must also be recognition in broadcasting policies of the contribution that Aboriginal heritage can make to the emergence of a unique Australian culture.”6 Amongst the 55 recommendations the report put forward, a number of human rights issues were addressed, including equal rights to telecommunications (broadcasting and telephone) in remote Indigenous communities as taken for granted in urban areas, funding considerations in recognition of ‘special national importance’ and programming to educate all Australians in Aboriginal culture.
  • As a collective, Indigenous media rejects the stereotyping of Indigenous issues reported in mainstream media sources. First Nations media organisations continually work to address stereotypes in mainstream culture, through strengthening culture within communities and through sharing responses to current events from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ perspective. In this way, they are actively participating in the truth-telling process every day and through their work, empowering local voices to share their own experiences, challenges, strengths and truths.


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