|KEITH JACKSON, station manager at 2SER FM,
is affectionately known to his underlings as "the champion
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,
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
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
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
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
"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
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
It was originally known as Radio ANU and was operated by the students of
the Australian National
In 1978, after a protracted struggle between the Left and Right factions
on campus, it became a community
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
"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