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Community radio means business

WITH the sponsorship dollar increasingly difficult to come by, some of WA’s community radio operators are becoming more business-like in their approach.

Community radio has often been seen as an eclectic and diverse sector that caters to undefined niche audiences. However, some community radio operators are trying to find better ways to attract sponsors.

They do have to be careful, however, because their licence prohibits them from running advertising.

The Brand Agency media buyer Sue Taylor said the fact that community stations only captured a small part of the overall radio market made it difficult for them to access large corporate sponsors.

“We basically go for the larger stations because our clients want mass reach,” she said.

“One of the big problems is that these [community] stations aren’t audited. We want to know who is listening to the station.”

Kalamunda Community Radio chairperson Monica Martinovich said KCR was taking a more business-driven approach to station management.

“We’ve had a big change of personnel. The station is now being treated like a business. We’ve had an accountant come on board as our treasurer,” she said.

“Because of these changes business is more likely to come on board. I went to a breakfast recently and came back with two new businesses keen to become sponsors.”

Ms Martinovich said it was difficult trying to attract new sponsors.

“We don’t have the funding to go out and do a survey, therefore we can’t prove our audience size and demographics,” she said.

Curtin University acting general manager of corporate communications Val Raubenheimer said the university would be applying a more business-focused approach to the operation of Curtin Radio.

“We have to be very careful in how we do things because we have to adhere to very strict Australian Broadcasting Authority guidelines,” she said. “Within those guidelines the station will be very tightly run. Budgets will be very closely monitored.

“We’re taking a more long-term strategic approach to our relationships. The station has also been brought into the central communications area of the university.”

Edith Cowan University media studies lecturer Brian Shoesmith, a passionate community radio supporter, said community radio didn’t count for much in the commercial sphere.

“Commercial radio is the dominant paradigm,” he said.

“But in personal terms I believe it [community radio] provides a valuable cultural voice.

“The interesting thing about community radio in Australia is how diverse and complex it is. There are various licensing criteria covering it such as educational, ethnic and so on.

“You don’t find that diversity anywhere else in the world.”

Professor Shoesmith said community radio also provided a training ground and starting point for many media players.

Indeed, Perth media personalities including Liam Bartlett, Geraldine Mellet, Christina Morrisey and

Peter Vlahos were all involved in community radio early in their careers.

Ms Martinovich said KCR presenter Steve Spallarossa had been sponsored by the Community Broad-casting Association to attend a prestigious radio course in Canberra.

Last month KCR was one of three WA community radio stations, along with Heritage FM and Twin Cities FM, to be granted permanent broadcasting licences by the Australian Broadcasting Authority.

The stations had been operating on temporary community broadcasters’ licences for the past several years.

While Curtin Radio is still feeling the cold breath of the guillotine on its neck after the May announcement that it was facing closure, the station will relaunch itself as Curtin FM 100.1 on October 27.

The new station will follow a very similar format to Curtin Radio 927. Presenters such as Peter Waltham, Peter Newman and Keith Taylor will remain.

The station has also been responsible for spawning a number of community stations, such as Aboriginal Radio. It is currently incubating youth station Groove FM.

Ms Raubenheimer said she had been surprised by the reaction to news of the station’s closure.

“The number of people who rang in and told us that the station was a major factor in their lives was a real surprise to us,” she said.

Ms Martinovich said community radio played a big part in the lives of many of its listeners and volunteers.

“We have people who put in 50 hours a week because they are so passionate about the medium,” she said.

“We’re able to broadcast things that you can’t get on commercial radio. I run a half-hour comedy slot with old episodes of the Goon Show or Tony Hancock and people love it.”

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