Provides an overview of Australia's community media sector, looking at its origins and composition and the problems it faces in light of the tasks it performs and the lack of resources available to it to deliver a media which is ‘of the people’ in terms of aims, objectives and production.
The term community media refers to radio, television and print services. Any or all of those forms of community media tend to emerge when communities are denied a voice for their views. In many countries they have provided a rallying point for protest and demands for rights. In post-apartheid South Africa, for example, community radio stations have emerged in an attempt to promote democracy as well as freedom of expression and diversity of broadcast content and ownership previously been denied in that country.
It would be drawing a long bow to equate the situation which led to the establishment of community radio in South Africa with that of Australia. Nevertheless it is possible to consider that the Australian community broadcasting sector, which emerged in the 1970s, represented the demands of groups who felt that they were denied the opportunity to express their opinions or listen to alternative sources of entertainment. These groups ranged from those who felt marginalised to those who were beginning to feel that traditional media sources were not acting in the interests of the people. They even included groups who just wanted to hear music that was different from that broadcast on commercial stations.
In seeking to deliver such alternatives, broadcast community media has done much to enhance Australian cultural diversity. It does much also to furnish ordinary Australians with an opportunity to contribute to debate on social and political issues. Indeed, researcher Michael Meadows and his colleagues argue that community broadcasting in Australia empowers audiences ‘to re-engage in the processes of democracy at the grass roots’ level creating social coherence through diversity’.
Community broadcasting can be seen therefore as an alternative medium to public service and commercial media. As such, it occupies ‘an important space in citizen participation’ and is an important, though neglected, media sector.
This paper provides an overview of the sector, looking at its origins and composition and the problems it faces in light of the tasks it performs and the lack of resources available to it to deliver a media which is ‘of the people’ in terms of aims, objectives and production.