By Helen Bath, volunteer CEO at Voice FM 99.9, Ballarat Community Radio.
Helen Bath – Voice FM 99.9, Ballarat (facilitator)
Diane Hunter – One FM, Shepparton
Leo Renkin – 94.7 The Pulse, Geelong
Bob Rau – 98.9 North West FM, Melbourne
Radio stations in country areas experience different issues from their metropolitan counterparts. communities. This discussion will help the NEMBC develop policies to strengthen its support for regional areas.
The session was started with a quick introduction of where delegates were from which included Cairns, Brisbane, Canberra, Mildura, Adelaide, Darwin and Melbourne.
Diane spoke first whilst a recent WinTV News item was played [unfortunately without sound – but the clip is available on both the One FM and Voice FM Facebook pages] Diane spoke of the difficulty in getting ethnic programs but how enthused she was from her attendance at last year’s conference in Darwin and how she had gone back to her station determined to “do this”! She had taken the stories and the significance of providing a voice for her community which included a growing number of refugees. They now have one program a week and are embracing the opportunity. She is determined that they will grow to 6-9 programs and understands the challenge but is also convinced that Shepparton needs this change.
Leo started by pointing out the obvious that he is a white male in control at his station. He started by telling a story of conflict and asking what is ethnic? He grew up in a diverse family that was very multicultural and challenged that things cross over and boundaries are less obvious. When he joined The Pulse, the Geelong Ethnic Broadcasters were involved and he was challenged with “meeting them”. He discovered that there were communication and access issues and once these were embraced they were on the road to developing a cohesive community. It was a hard transition that identified that training was essential. Providing an open door helped to work through language skills and showed a different side as well as embracing the opportunity to bring different communities together socially. This was done with functions that combined food and performance and proved very effective in breaking down barriers.
The Pulse has 12-17 ethnic programs and whilst their fight with the ABC was a problem eventually they were asked if the ABC could set up an office at the Pulse. This has provided an insight into how the ABC journalists work and what The Pulse can learn in combining story/film, sound/radio, content. The Pulse have embraced training and recently assisted Mildura discovering that they have 3-9 ethnic groups who alternate weekly, who had access issues. Leo’s strong message is hard work, training, a welcoming environment and it is essential that you build confidence in and with all your presenters.
Bob thanked the NEMBC for the opportunity and paid his respects to the local indigenous community. He proposed a locational perspective and used various stations as examples of Regional/provincial, Rural and Remote stations. Geographically decentralization is providing opportunities for stations where populations are growing with a number of emerging language groups. Whilst North West FM is a sub-metro station they are located the Moreland, Hume and Mooney Valley Councils that include the highest distribution of ethnic communities. North West seek to exploit this fact, sometimes not successfully. Bob listed the diverse language groups within their broadcast area and pointed out their particular difficulty in getting female presenters.
Bob spoke about the importance of defining your licence area and using ABS and Local councils to identify the ethnic breakdown as it was easy to miss some groups.
Bob suggested that it was important to identify the leaders of the different ethnic groups and engage with them, provide training which also is important as it establishes a bond engaging them within the North West Family. They endeavour to provide an open door and call on other stations to be brave and provide incentives for ethnic communities to come and be involved with your stations.
A general discussion then raised the following issues with good participation:
Issues as listed on the board at the end of the session:
- How does your station identify your community?
- Enhance skills – respecting differences
- Learning new skills
- Opportunity to educate both volunteers/presenters/community
- Opportunity to provide vital information for your community
- Need to plan to engage youth and women
- Need to educate listeners to be a part of the change
- How do you identify your community leaders and don’t forget the “groups” that are likely to help with identifying the “key” people
- Provide airtime/engagement with politicians/councillors to build partnerships
- What is the best way to deal with translation issues to ensure presenters are complying with the Code of Practice.
- Enhance skills – respecting differences
- Marketing your station – broadly
- Difficulty with and because of language skills and the problems with seniors listening that may lose a youth audience and the opportunity and necessity to build bridges between the ages for all involved
- Challenge of meeting funding/grant guidelines as opposed to engage community.
- Identify issues that are important in your community and then research ways to provide content that engages as well as informs your community
- Identify barriers:
- What are the technical difficulties
- How do you access skilled people to help with the technical difficulties
- Don’t ever forget that your community might be smarter than you.
- We then had engagement with two young presenters who talked about how essential funding was for new and emerging language groups which was very valuable and brought together a number of options to assist and engage with them in their endeavours.
So, at the end of the session it was the community broadcasting sector coming together to find solutions to a problem for young enthusiastic presenters on their journey within our wonderful community with all its complexities.
I hope this breakdown of our session assists with policy development. The workshop agreed that there was an opportunity to circulate the notes for further input that may benefit the stations involved but also the NEMBC in their deliberations.
Voice FM 99.9
Ballarat Community Radio