Every year community radio stations in Australia are threatened with government budget cuts, and the uprising of commercial radio stations increasing their share of the broadcast ratings on the airwaves.

Despite these factors, community radio is proving to be resilient against a range of environmental and political factors that are impacting on its future.

According to the 2014 Community Radio National Listener Survey, over 29% of radio listeners tune in to community radio each week throughout the nation.

So almost 5.5 million listeners must be a great thing, right?

Emma McCluney, Ambush the Airwaves online editor, set out on a mission to investigate whether the future of community radio in Australia is indeed safe…for now at least.

Russell Biddle, president of radio station 100.3 Bay FM in Thornlands, Queensland, believes community radio is a fundamental key to social engagement and entertainment, and its survival in society today is paramount.

“The community station fills that gap in between in relation to all the local information, the local news, and because it’s amateur it gives a lot of people the opportunity to get involved, and I think people enjoy that,” he said.

“You don’t get the same top 40 songs all the time [or] the same talk back callers all the time.

“There’s actually quite a variety and I think that’s very attractive.”

With new community groups forming and competing with local stations for government-funded incentives and sponsorship, Mr Biddle is concerned for the future of community radio.

“Over the last few years [funding] has been cut back quite substantially,” he said.

“It’s much more competitive to get the funding to do what you want to do, and that’s why we rely on our sponsors.

“You’re competing for advertising dollars basically to survive and to do that you’ve got to provide variety, the quality of the programs that you’re putting on need to be more polished than what they’ve been in the past…and that you’re giving the community what they want so that they then support the sponsors of the station.”

Danny Chifley, the longest serving staff member at the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA) office in Sydney, agrees the funding cuts are a problem, but the increase in listeners has had a noticeable positive impact on the community radio sector.

“We have very dedicated listeners tuning into [community radio] for approximately 14.5 hours each week,” he said.

“We are doing everything we can so the sector stays strong…[and] we are trying to conduct research with our members, and find out what our community broadcasters need.

“We’ve had the threat of budget cuts in recent years but the sector has always run on very limited resources…[however] if the government was to pull all funding, I’m sure the sector would still survive.

“The local community through their membership and sponsorship provide most of the money for the sector.”

Until next year’s budget, we will just have to wait and see whether the future of community radio really is in safe hands, but for now we can rest assured that the power of social awareness is growing by the year, and sponsorship is keeping the industry afloat for the time being.

To find out more please visit the CBAA website: http://cbaa.org.au. Alternatively you can look at the 2014 National Listener Survey here: http://cbaa.org.au/sites/default/files/Fact%20Sheet%20-%20QLD%20-%202014.pdf

Emma McCluney

Read more about the author here:



Survey on Sunday

Good evening fellow Ambush friends!

Last week I posted a six-question survey to my Facebook page (and also sent it as an attachment in a few emails) and have finally received the results!

21 people responded to the questions I created and the data reflects a positive outlook on community radio, and participants have also offered suggestions and solutions to boosting awareness of local radio.

Check out the results here…



I had a chat to Bay Fm Production Engineer Alan Blockley to find out what goes happens off air, and what drives him to work for free.


Q: What do you do at Bay FM?

A: I deal with anything that comes in the door that needs to be recorded and formatted, sponsorships, advertisements, community notices…if they come through the door I produce them, I make them sound pretty then get them to air.


Q: What drives you to work for free?

A: The self-satisfaction is the main thing. The satisfaction of knowing that ‘I created that’ and that I’m able to give something back to a community cause. Self-improvement drives me as well.


Q: How did you get involved?

A: I’ve been dealing with media and production as a hobby for five years and I wanted to do something real. I wanted to do something which would be the next step towards forming a new career potentially. It made sense to just put my hand up and get involved.


Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

A: I struggle to see where I am in two hours let alone in ten years! I’d like to say I’m in a media role or working for a commercial radio station or even doing my own thing. But certainly see my future in media and radio.


Q: Any advice for aspiring media and radio gurus?

A: Don’t be afraid to speak up. Don’t be afraid to knock on the door, or write, or call. Just ask! If you’re good enough, they’ll tell you you’re good enough. Always persevere and enjoy what you do.

Bay FM Production engineer and media guru, Alan Blockley in the studio

Production engineer and media guru, Alan Blockley in the  Bay FM studio.



Let’s ask the locals!

So what do the locals think about community radio?


Joseph Gormley, 60

“Community radio is important because it keeps people that don’t listen to national radio updated on local issues that they may otherwise miss, and it plays a more select choice of music.”






“Local community radio keeps you in touch with things around your neighbourhood…even the advertising is for local businesses which drives the local economy.”

Dan Livingstone, 24

  “Community radio is all about supporting the community and because we are all volunteers, it’s up to us to make it count.”


Laraine Dillion, 72


Confessions of a first-time community radio announcer

Sitting nervously in the studio awaiting broadcast

Emma sitting nervously in the studio awaiting broadcast

My sweaty palms hovered over the panel board and I watched the hands of the wall clock tick away shakily as I prepared for my first on-air broadcast. At exactly 4:12pm I fade the news out and take a breath. I turn the volume of my microphone and in that second, right before I open my mouth, I have a moment of clarity: this is what I want to do.

I am using Bay Fm, my local radio station in the Redlands, as a springboard, as well as a vessel to gain experience and meet incredibly talented and likeminded individuals. Having my voice on-air for a two hour period on Friday afternoons during peak hour is a bonus.

My colleague, David Stone, was sitting behind me the entire time during my first show. He supervised and mentored and chuckled in the background, but I was hardly paying attention. Even though he is one of the wisest men I have probably ever met when it comes to operating a panel, I was too nervous to multitask. I was in the zone.

My show, Bay Drive, is one of many segments on 100.3FM. Despite being such a small station in the outer suburbs of the south east, it generates a large number of local and loyal listeners. After the nerves subsided and I was able to manoeuvre to a rhythm whilst politely laughing at David’s wry witty jokes, I was presenting so confidently you would have thought I had been on my entire life.

I played great music. Anything from the late eighties and onwards. I had a few listeners call in exclaiming how great the tunes were and even some requests. I do admit I said the word ‘awesome’ to excess, and when announcing the time I stumbled over the numbers more than once, but hey, it was my first time so I was allowed some leeway.

Bay Drive airs between 4:00pm and 6:00pm on Fridays, and I cannot wait for my next show. As a volunteer for a community radio station, I am proud to say that I am not in this for the money, but purely for passion.