Local radio station BayFM.
Local radio station BayFM. The Northern Star

Local radio sends the right signal

LOCAL voices, local people, local music and local stories - that's what community radio is all about. And that formula might explain why its popularity is growing.

According to an independent study by McNair Ingenuity Research, 57 per cent of Australians are now listening to community radio stations at least once a month.

That is a jump from 2007 when only 47 per cent were tuning in.

The growth in popularity was because community radio stations had begun to understand they had something unique to offer their listeners, Lismore community station 2NCR FM vice-president Basia Klim said.

“We are more grass roots and we can offer a broader range of programs,” she said.

One of the things 2NCR FM tried to achieve, Ms Klim said, was to give local people and organisations a 'leg-up' by playing local music and supporting their activities.

“About 25 per cent of the music we play is Australian and we play a lot of local North Coast music,” she said.

“We give a voice to local people and personalities and we cover things that are happening locally.”

Ms Klim said the philosophy at 2NCR was to view the community as part of the family.

“We support each other and that doesn't really happen in commercial radio,” she said.

However, the station didn't see itself as being in competition with commercial radio.

“We can fill that niche commercial radio stations can't and we can give people what they can't get anywhere else,” she said.

There are 380 community broadcasters in Australia with about 25,000 people estimated to be tuning in.

Community Broadcasting Association of Australia general manager Michele Bawden said community radio started in Australia 34 years ago because there was a need for diversity.

“There was a need for something different, an alternative voice to the ABC and commercial radio,” Ms Bawden said.

She said early community radio stations were started by radicals.

“In Melbourne, 3CR was started by trade unionists and political activists. Bay FM has a bit of that radical edge too.”

Ms Bawden said community radio would continue to grow as commercial radio becomes more networked.

“Much of their programming is now coming out of capital cities,” she said.

“More and more people will continue to tune into community radio to get local news and local content.”

Mrs Bawden said she would not be surprised if commercial radio started losing listeners to community stations.

“Listeners will become more discerning and may start radio surfing,” she said.

Bay FM vice-president Ros Elliot said community radio in Byron Bay was going strong.

So many people in Byron wanted to be radio announcers that the station had to come up with an application process, Ms Elliott said.

Ms Elliott said the station's success was tied to its commitment to the local community.

“We connect people with other people and things that are happening in Byron,” Ms Elliott said.

About 120 volunteers work at the station, with 85 of them working as announcers.

The station's programming certainly reflects the diversity of the local community.

“We have an aura reading program called Transformation for You, and a small business program and we have a poetry program too,” Ms Elliott said.

There are currently 85 weekly shows broadcast from the station.

Bay FM offers training courses and mentoring for all its new announcers.

Local community radio stations
  • 2.COW FM Casino 107.9 FM
  • 2NCR FM Lismore 92.9
  • BAY FM Byron Bay 99.9
  • NIM FM Nimbin 102.3
  • PARADISE FM Ballina 101.9

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