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Radio proves a shining light

A COMMUNITY radio service is allowing about 200,000 Western Australians to do what many people take for granted – access the information in a newspaper.

The annual budget for the service fluctuates between $180,000 and $200,000, something the station manages to raise by itself.

However, the station is hoping to increase its funding to extend its service to regional centres.

There are more than 300,000 people with some form of print disability in WA and about two thirds of those are within 990 RPH, better known as Information Radio’s broadcast area.

According to the 1985 Department of Communications Review of Radio for the Print Handicapped, a print handicap is defined as: "People who through age, disability or literacy problems are physically unable to handle books or newspapers or read or comprehend written material".

The station reads newspapers such as The West Australian, The Sunday Times and The Australian through each week and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week with just 2.6 full-time employees and 120 volunteers.

It also contains a host of other information such as Consumer Watch, Money Matters, the Law and You, the Stock Market Report and what it claims to be WA’s most comprehensive coverage of WA Football League games.

In all it covers about 40 matches a year, along with the Sandover Medal presentation. The coverage is done in conjunction with Footygoss.com.

To cover the late night stretches the station subscribes to the BBC World Service, something Britain’s premier broadcaster provides for £100 a year.

A large proportion of the station’s funding comes from the Federal Government through its provision of a transmitter. For such a small station, it is ironic that the transmitter is one of its highest costs. Indeed, it is the most expensive transmitter in WA, costing about $140,000 a year.

The cost is a function of its location on a block in Applecross that it shares with 6PR’s transmitter.

Both transmitters are being moved to Belmont so the Federal Government can sell off the Applecross land.

Other sponsors include WA Newspaper Holdings and Alinta. It also received a major grant from Lotterywest to upgrade to a digital station management system. However, that system is now outmoded and there is need to upgrade it.

Information radio also raises funds through selling airtime to other companies to produce shows.

Because it is a community station it is prohibited from selling advertising but can have companies "sponsor" shows.

The Western Australian Government gives the station no funding.

Station manager Peter Luckett said Information Radio had a simple ethos.

"Our view is it is free to air but not to air for free," he said.

Mr Luckett said he hoped to raise the amount of money coming to the station so it could take on more full-time staff to help run the station and plan its expansion into regional areas.

The actual mechanics of expansion are not difficult. Low-powered FM transmitters are readily available and can be had for about $10,000.

However, it is the planning for that expansion that is the problem with the staff fully involved in just ensuring there are enough volunteers available to help keep the station running.

Mr Luckett said getting volunteers was not as simple as it seemed.

"While a lot of people are prepared to help out, they need to have the required literacy standards and have to be trained," he said.

The station has been running for about 25 years, starting off as the Foundation for Radio for the Print Handicapped of WA.

 

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