Sydney Morning Herald 17-2-1982 - Keith Jackson casts the net wide to make public radio pay
By JOHN HANSCOMBE

 
 
KEITH JACKSON, station manager at 2SER FM, is affectionately known to his underlings as "the champion of pluralism."

The reference is to his formula of encouraging community access to, and participation in, public radio.
It is affectionate because his formula is an intrinsic factor in the station's success, measured in a core
audience of 65,000.

And it should be seen as an encouraging piece of advice to the newest pioneers in public broadcasting,
the nine new "neighbourhood" FM stations announced by the Minister for Communications, Mr Sinclair,
last Sunday.

Pluralism the key word in 2SER's programming policy has helped build the station's ratings. At the
same time it has contributed to the station's strong financial position.
This year 2SER will operate on a $270,000 budget, one of the largest single public broadcasting budgets in
the country.

While $100,000 will come from an institutional grant from both Macquarie University and the NSW Institute
of Technology, the rest, $170,000, will be generated by the station itself.

Community groups (such as the Irish community, the Women's Radio Group and the Movement Against
Uranium Mining) who want access to 2SER's air-time have to pay for it proof that pluralism does pay.
Subscriptions and other fund-raising activities also pay for some of the station's operating costs.
While the station receives a yearly institutional grant it is most unlikely that the new "neighbourhood"
stations will be as lucky.

They will have to rely almost exclusively on subscriptions, which means their survival will depend on
whether the community they purport to serve will be prepared to pay for them..
That, in turn, will depend on tte programming policies of each station and the actual, rather than the stated,
level of public access they offer.

According to Keith Jackson "stations like these have to be pluralistic to survive".

"Any station relying on the views of one particular faction is bound to run into problems," he said.

"While we at 2SER don't espouse any particular point of view as an institution, the programs themselves
are committed in various ways."

The key to success is, in his view, to "cast the net wide."

But casting the net wide in a "neighbourhood" sense presents obvious difficulties. Will the Narwee
community, for instance. suddenly start subscribing to a station, as hinted by Mr Sinclair. run by the local
Baptist Church?

Another difficulty presented with wide public access to these stations is their low transmitting power,
enabling them to broadcast only in a five kilometre radius.

Despite these difficulties Brendan O'Dwyer, chairman of the Public Broadcasters' Association of Australia,
sees a great future in this sort of public broadcasting Associations of Australia sees a great future in this
sort of public broadcasting and in general.

He said that public broadcasting contains the most innovative material and that the demand for it is clearly
reflected in the number of such stations throughout Australia 32.

"In the last five years people have been prepared to pay for their community's radio stations," he said.
He did admit, however, that despite this good public response money was still a big problem. Only 11
public radio stations in Australia have institutional funding.

He said that the vital importance of public radio was its capacity to present ethnic and Aboriginal programs
and the views of other minority groups.

One such "C" category, or community, station is 2XX in Canberra. Each week the station runs 32 different
ethnic programs during the evening.

Unlike 2SER in Sydney, and the new neighbourhood stations, it is an AM broadcaster.
It was originally known as Radio ANU and was operated by the students of the Australian National
University.

In 1978, after a protracted struggle between the Left and Right factions on campus, it became a community
station.

According to Kate Blattman, community access officer for the station, it has been a great success. She
denied claims that the station was effectively being run by radical feminists.

"We all hold alternative political views and operate as a collective, which is a principle of feminism, but we
don't rely on one point of view," she said.

Asked whether the Right to Life movement, for instance, would ever be sold air-time, she said: "We arc not
interested in giving access to people who already have access to the mainstream media." Perhaps then
the correct name for public radio is "alternative radio."

"At 2XX we have a different way of dealing with information we present the alternative views on it," she
said.
 
 

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