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Wednesday 20th February / posted by Chris Wheeldon

A WORD FROM RTRFM’S GENERAL MANAGER.

As we have been discussing the digital radio spectrum and the funding cuts to the community broadcasting sector that enables us to access this technology quite a bit, I thought it might be a good idea to give some local context to how we are affected here in WA.

RTRFM, like most metro community stations (7 in Perth), broadcasts via both the analogue and digital spectrums in conjunction with live on-line streaming, re-streaming and podcasting.

Community radio needs to ensure it stays abreast of the media landscape changes, particularly the technological changes. It is fair to say that with the federal governments introduction of digital radio, at some point, they will turn off the analogue signal just as they are about to do with digital television.   This may be 5, 10 or even 15 years away, but we need to ensure we are ready for this when it happens.  On a side note – RTRFM was one of the first broadcasters to transmit digitally.

There has also been a lot of discussion of whether digital radio is the way of the future with some saying ‘everyone will be listening on the internet’. The truth is people consume media in a range of different ways and community radio needs to be equipped for all of these and ensure people have access to free local content.

At this point in time, digital radio will become the ONLY FREE TO AIR SERVICE available once analogue is turned off.  We need to ensure that we have the resources available to broadcast via this outlet. Community radio is first and foremost about ensuring access to local content for all.

Internet radio, even when broadcast via 4G network is:

a)    not free to air

b)   Is considered a one-to-one broadcast and

c)    not currently able to broadcast to as many listeners simultaneously

If you are on Facebook, read RRR Station Manager Dave Houchin’s summation of the issues about ¾ of the way down this post.  It sums things up pretty well.

Read here

Currently in WA, we already have less digital bandwidth available to community stations than in other states, as much of it has been sold off to commercial radio. This greatly affects the quality and options of signal community stations can provide. In saying this, I know at least one WA metro community station that broadcast only via digital. This will be another issue that will become more apparent as we move forward with this technology.  This also affects our ability to broadcast different content on our digital transmission like SBS, ABC or the commercial stations do via secondary digital stations.

Further to this, commercial stations are already lobbying the government to subsidize their regional digital rollout, whilst community based broadcasters suffer.

Read here

The pressure on government to sell off analogue bandwidth is already high and will become higher as it is a more valuable commodity than digital. Once again, this all comes down to economics! The funding of digital bandwidth across the nation, and particularly here where we are already at a disadvantage, is not  something that community stations can realistically afford themselves and it is the governments responsibility to provide open and fair access to broadcast communication for our sector in the future.

I hope this helps explain the issue for anyone who is feeling confused.  Wednesday 20th February saw the beginning of the fight to get this funding back, so please help by keeping the issue at the forefront. Sign the petition and keep up to date through your community broadcasters and their website

Commit Here

Jason Cleary
General Manager, RTRFM

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