Industry: the Amrap investigation

Community radio looks to future after Amrap investigation.

Amrap (the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project), which distribute new local music to community radio stations for the past 18 years, saw airplay increase by 7% to an average of 39% and helped 5000 musicians and 100 labels.

Community radio now airs over 2,000 hours of Australian music a day, says the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA), which runs Amrap. However in the last 12 months, Amrap has operated under a cloud. Faced with plans to restructure the initiative, its dedicated six-person team loudly revolted and was replaced. An Amrap staffer filed a complaint to funding body CBF (Community Broadcasting Foundation) that the CBAA had misused government funds for Amrap. In April, the CBF appointed Sydney barrister Ben Fogarty and accountancy firm Pitcher Partners to investigate. Last week it declared it did “not identify anything of material concern from an accounting or audit perspective”.

Now cleared, CBAA chief executive Jon Bisset tells Beat that it’s time to move on. “The community radio sector is thriving – we’ve just recorded our highest national listenership on record. 5.7 million Australians tune in to 450+ community radio services across the country each week.”
Amrap’s website will be upgraded to be more user-friendly. “We think there’s some great opportunities to get more artists and broadcasters than ever using the services,” Bisset says. Following its work at BIGSOUND and Music NT’s Bush Bands Bash, there will be moves to strengthen ties with the music and media sectors. One way will be via the Amrap Advisory Group, which consists of reps from the music industry and community broadcasting, “and will be a fantastic sounding board for future developments of the Amrap initiative.”

A priority is to keep government funding (10% of the sector’s revenue) on going. The CBAA’s strategy is to ensure pollies on all sides understand the value of community radio – especially as more media becomes centralised – remind them the sector faces continual financial problems, and provide them with research data. Recent government investment in the sector targeted at news, online streaming and training is a promising indication of the sector’s recognition.

Bisset explains, “In 2017, our efforts saw an extra $18 million of federal government funding secured for the sector. Most recently, we have participated in government inquiries into public interest journalism and the music industry in NSW and nationally. At an individual station level, we provide station managers and boards with financial and governance advice, information and resources to assist them.”

As for the CBAA’s future moves: “We take a holistic and future facing approach to supporting the community radio sector. This includes providing services to stations to assist them in all areas of their operations, ranging from governance and audience research services to content (our Community Radio Network and Amrap) and infrastructure (our Digital Radio Project). We are looking at new services around community radio news and online streaming, and for opportunities to collaborate more, including with the broader not-for-profit sector.”