COMMUNITY BROADCASTING ASSOCIATION OF AUSTRALIA
When the Commonwealth government started showing a serious interest in a non-profit third sector of radio broadcasting, known as ‘public broadcasting’, those interested held a conference in July 1974 to discuss the best way to lobby government for suitable licences. They formed the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia (PBAA). The leaders of the PBAA, including Professor Peter Pockley, were part of an educated elite who did most of the early lobbying, tending to marginalise ‘grass-roots’ members.
Once the first batch of licences was issued in 1976, this differentiation in membership became enshrined in a new constitution, which stated that only licensed stations could be full members of the association. The interests of these two groups were very different. Licensed stations—which had paid staff—were concerned about the nature of their licences and the development of sponsorship, while aspirants—who were largely volunteers—just wanted to be allowed to broadcast. This division in the interests of different members was reinforced when funding was obtained for a secretariat with Michael Law from 2MBS FM as part-time executive director. The aspirants failed to assert themselves, but a growing band of ethnic public broadcasters, who were receiving increased government funding with the developing policy of multiculturalism, found a voice and left the PBAA to form their own organisation, the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council. By the end of the 1980s, Indigenous and Radio for Print Handicapped (RPH) groups had also left the PBAA and secured their own funding, which was more substantial than that available to general public broadcasters.
By 1992, the PBAA found itself in considerable financial difficulties. The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 was passed, changing the name of the sector to from public to community broadcasting, and the association became the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA); at the same time, the receivers decided to attempt to trade out of financial difficulties. The situation gradually improved as more stations were licensed and, with Michael Thompson as general manager, the CBAA became involved with aspirant community television groups. During the 1990s, satellite services were developed for use by member stations. Before the end of the decade, a dispute arose with the Phonographic Performance Company of Australia (PPCA) about royalty payments under the Copyright Act 1968, which was not finally resolved until the end of 2001.
As the new century unfolded, some stations were broadcasting illegal advertisements. This led the CBAA to work with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to produce a new clear set of community broadcasting sponsorship guidelines to reduce the number of stations that broke the rules. The CBAA’s attention also turned to the development of digital radio, and to lobbying government for funding to make this possible. By 2013, the CBAA had 246 full and 41 affiliate radio and television member stations.
REFs: P. Thornley, ‘Broadcasting Policy in Australia: Political Influences and the Federal Government’s Role in the Establishment and Development of Public/Community Broadcasting in Australia—A History 1939 to 1992’ (PhD thesis, 1999); http://www.cbaa.org.au.