Commercial Radio Australia wants to abolish the guidelines and codes of conduct that force Australian stations to play Australian music. The reason? Because “it is unsustainable and inequitable ” for its members to meet local music quotas while internet stations do not.
Sorry, but that’s disingenuous rubbish. The CRA has consistently and misguidedly promoted the fact that playing even 6.25% new local music will inevitably cause the death of radio in Australia. This from an organisation which reported metropolitan advertising revenues of more than $683 million last financial year. That’s 5.65% growth on their previous year.
So while we’re being inundated with the exasperated tweets, emails and phone-calls of Australian musicians who can’t reach an audience, we thought we’d give you a bit of an FAQ about Australian music and the radio.
WHAT IS THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC QUOTA?
Commercial Hit Radio formats (Austereo, Nova and a bunch of others) must play 25% Australian music between 6am and midnight. But don’t worry about a lack of Savage Garden, Chisel and Farnsy on your radio because only a quarter of that quota must have been released in the last 12 months. That’s only 6.25% of new Australian music on our radios at the moment. For the record, AIR did some studies last year and found that not a single Australian station voluntarily exceeded their quota by more than 3%.
WHY IS THERE AN AUSTRALIAN MUSIC QUOTA?
Owning a license to broadcast in Australia is a privilege, not a right. Bandwidth should be treated like any other finite Australian natural resource. It can be used by companies for commercial exploitation as long as there is also a benefit to the Australian people (mining tax anyone?). Commercial Radio stations are granted a license to broadcast by the Australian Government under the condition that they adhere to the Broadcasting Services Act whose aim is “to promote the role of broadcasting services in developing and reflecting a sense of Australian identity, character and cultural diversity”. It’s clear from this latest statement that Commercial Radio Australia is not the least bit interested in reflecting Australian identity, character and cultural diversity.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU GET RID OF A QUOTA?
20 years ago, New Zealand deregulated their radio industry. As a result, local content dropped to below 2% of what was played. Hardly any New Zealand acts reached an audience throughout the 1990’s (apart from OMC). Since then the NZ Government has spent tens of millions of dollars each year rebuilding their industry through grant programs. Is the Australian government willing to do that? Is Commercial Radio Australia willing to contribute?
WHY DON’T RADIO STATIONS WANT TO PLAY AUSTRALIAN MUSIC?
We figure that it has something to do with shortsighted surveying of audiences and the mistaken belief that audiences don’t want to hear Australian music. Indeed it’s easier to break a new David Guetta, Katy Perry or Good Charlotte track than Bagraiders, Kimbra or Children Collide. If it comes down to it, Australian acts will always lose out.
IS AUSTRALIAN MUSIC GOOD ENOUGH?
There used to be an excuse that Australian music just didn’t have the production values of music from the USA or UK so radio couldn’t play it. That ain’t true anymore. You’re telling us that commercial pop from Gotye, Empire Of The Sun, Powderfinger, Temper Trap, The Presets, Kimbra and Miami Horror doesn’t cut it?
Australian musicians need to be able to find an audience to survive and without the support of local radio they’ll struggle to do so. Without a radio audience, there’s less commercial return for those investing in music and if commercial pop artists ain’t making a buck for our labels, how can we expect them to invest in young artists who are truly creating something special, risky or unique? Even artists that don’t get played on commercial radio will lose out. Australian creativity and musical diversity suffer.
Nick O’Byrne is the General Manager of the Australian Independent Record Labels Association.