At the beginning of this month the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) registered a new commercial radio code of practice exempting any obligations to play Australian music on digital radio. This was despite almost unanimous protests from the music industry, and against all advice around developing cultural character and diversity within Australia.
ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said of the exemption “‘in these early days of digital radio, licensees should be afforded the opportunity to experiment with programming formats.” What does he mean by experiment? He went on to cite “Pink Radio and Radio GaGa” as something we could look forward to on the new platform.
Yes, Aussie music has been bumped for “experimental” radio such as 24 hour Pink and/ or Gaga.
Commercial Radio Australia (CRA), the representative body for stations like Nova, 2Day, Triple M and other commercials, have a long history of trying to weasel their way out of being obliged to play Aussie music. In 2009 they started a review of the code without alerting any stakeholders of the process, trying to limit public comment on the proposed amendments (which included deleting the purpose of the code as it relates to Aussie music and getting rid of AMPCOM, a body created to maximise the exposure of Australian music on commercial radio). Earlier this year there was a small (okay, tiny) advertisement placed in The Australian newspaper. Eagle eyes in the industry picked up on the advert and circulated it amongst colleagues – had that not happened the decision just made would have happened without any industry comment. Not that, in this case, industry comment was useful.
The opportunities that come with the emergence of digital radio are massive, and massively exciting – not just for the music industry but for the broader community. These new digital stations provide unparalleled opportunities within the radio sector to support Australian music, but unfortunately we operate in a world where cultural support and development doesn’t have the sway of the dollar.
We, both at MusicNSW and through our national platform, the Australian Music Industry Network (AMIN), have repeatedly alerted industry watchdog the ACMA of the importance of local music quotas, and for those quotas to apply to new artists across all broadcast time. We’ve also let the Federal Government know – as recently as two weeks ago, when submissions were sent to Garrett’s department in response to his two-years-coming Contemporary Music Strategy. In it, he put forward the idea that thee Australian government, along with industry, could “continue to encourage ongoing exposure and increased diversity of Australian contemporary music.” We reckon that’s bullsh*t. With quotas in place CRA have been looking for ways out of supporting Australian music. Without quotas we doubt that “encouragement” is going to work. The announcement of this move away from quotas is bad news for Australian music – if you agree contact the ACMA: email@example.com and Garrett’s department: musicindustrystrategy.arts.gov.au.
Written by Eliza Sarlos.