The commercial radio industry has urged the Federal Government to put in place a crisis relief package to support broadcasters struggling with falling ad revenues.
Peak industry body Commercial Radio Australia canvassed a range of financial and regulatory measures with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher some weeks ago to ease the pressure on radio operators resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Australian Government can provide much-needed relief and certainty by easing regulatory constraints and the heavy compliance burden on local radio,” chief executive officer Joan Warner said.
“We also call on the Federal Government to divert a proportion of its marketing spend from global digital platforms to local Australian radio at a time when it is needed the most.
“Radio is the most local of all media. The targeted community service, sense of community and live and local content that we provide can’t, and won’t, be replicated by global platforms such as Google and Facebook.”
Radio ad revenues are expected to show a downturn when Deloitte ad revenue figures for the March quarter are released later this month, but Warner said the full impact of the pandemic is not expected to be seen until the June quarter figures are released.
“Many advertisers large and small have cancelled or reduced advertising. This has led to job cuts across the industry at a time when the increase in workload of providing live and local radio services to the 95 per cent of Australians who listen to radio, with nearly 80 per cent of those listening to commercial radio, is unprecedented,” Warner said.
CRA has called on the Government to implement measures to support the industry’s sustainability, including: increase radio’s share of the current COVID-19 information campaign and other government advertising to at least 15 per cent of total government ad spend; provide immediate relief from spectrum licence fees for two years; and change regulation to allow MPs’ to use their electorate communications allowances on local radio, especially in regions. The current rules allow MPs to use their allocations on social media to inform constituents of news and events in their electorates but not radio.
Warner added that CRA is deeply disappointed that regional radio is still excluded from the Regional and Small Publishers’ Innovation Fund after the Minister’s announcement that $5 million is being released from that fund to support regional news and journalism. While the Minister announced eligibility had been expanded, for some inexplicable reason local radio news is still excluded.
“With local print disappearing and TV content being scaled back, Australians will rely on local commercial radio more than ever as a trusted source to keep them informed, entertained and connected,” she said.
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