Monday, 9 November 2020
Longman electorate: Community Radio
On Saturday, I attended the AGM for one of my electorate's most important community organisations—Moreton Bay's own 101.5 FM, a community radio station in Caboolture. Community radio plays an important role in so many communities. It gives a platform to a diverse range of views that enrich our social and cultural fabric. It promotes media diversity and provides social inclusion and local community participation, as well as media access that is in the public interest. Radio station 101.5 FM does all of these things. It also supports local content production that is tailored to the needs and interests of not only the people living in my electorate of Longman but, in fact, eight per cent of the Moreton Bay Regional Council.
For more than 30 years, 101.5 FM has been operating out of Caboolture. The idea for the station began through a conversation between Andrew Stanton and Alex Long, who became the first station president. With a lot of help from the community, particularly Rotary, Moreton Bay council and the local business community, they raised just under $500,000 in over three years to launch it. Then known as Caboolture Radio, its first test broadcast was in 1987 and it went live in 1989. Andrew and Alex were joined by dozens of volunteers. Currently there are 83 volunteers on the books and two paid staff. This number is expected to swell again with young people now COVID restrictions have eased. The station also gives undergraduate students work experience in the industry. Several young volunteers have gone on to mainstream media such as The Courier-Mail, ABC and television.
Over the past 31 years, thousands of people have walked through its doors and contributed in some way to making the station what it is today. Many of those have helped raise millions of dollars for local causes through supporting fundraising or other events for community groups each year, and the station averages more than 40 outside broadcast fundraisers every year. It currently has more than 200 community members. These include schools such as Saint Columban's College and Mount Mee State School and community groups like the Redcliffe, Caboolture and Bribie Island legacy groups, the Burpengary Community Association, the Abbey Museum of Art and Archaeology, Donnybrook Sports and Community Club and the Bribie Island Orchid Society. Groups like these use the station as an information portal for members and to help out with their fundraising efforts.
The station has helped many people develop a love for radio, including people on Work for the Dole programs and others doing community service through court orders. The station has an open-door policy, whereby if someone wants to have a go at radio they get a go. Not only does it play an important role in the community through its broadcast content but it also provides employment, new training and skills, and a focus for many people who otherwise don't have one. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day every day, with a breakfast show, morning magazine program, drive-time program and local information shows. It plays a wide range of music from classic hits, country and blues, to top 40 hits and Aussie rock.
Community radio has not been without its challenges over the years as technology evolves and new forms of media come along. Given that 101.5 FM's primary role is the dissemination of information during an emergency, it was paramount that it kept touch with the rapidly changing technology. To their credit, the staff have fully embraced technology in their day-to-day operations. The station has the latest studio and podcasting equipment coupled with a fully capable emergency broadcast unit. This equipment ensures that it is ready to keep pace with the ever-changing Longman community, its needs and expectations.
According to the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, which champions community radio across the country, community broadcasters like 101.5 FM are more crucial than ever. For the most part, stations like 101.5 FM are well positioned to meet these challenges; in fact, community broadcasting is thriving across the country. Audience research released in December 2018 showed it had the highest national listening audience on record. In Queensland, more than 1.2 million people, or around 31 per cent of the population, listen to community radio. Community radio stations like 101.5 FM play an important role in local communities like those in Longman and it is vital to support them so they can continue filling the airwaves.