No sooner than I shared a post on Facebook about “Save Radio Adelaide”, I received a comment reminding me of the importance of sustainable strategies for a community radio
“Sustainability”, was the buzz word for community radio stations in India from 2010 when everyone was speaking about the importance of achieving sustainability. In 2011, UNICEF partnered with CEMCA to investigate critical sustainability dimensions – program, technical, financial and human with NGO run stations and in 2012 bought a publication called “Abiding Voices” based on the findings. Shortly after, in all meetings sustainability became the mantra!
Along with that a parallel track of debates and dialogues followed on the need to handover the station to the community. Experts in the field clarified the process of handover was limited to the community being in a position to run the station- in terms of management, participation and ownership.
So what does this mean for Radio Adelaide? A station with a 43 year old legacy and the first community radio station of Australia!
Tracing back the history of Radio Adelaide, the station began with a vision to be an educational station in 1972, when the campaign for community radio was in full swing in fact the early campaigns for a community (then called public) radio were led by Universities like University of New England (UNE), University of New South Wales (UNSW), and Adelaide University among the others three movements. In the early days’ radio as an extension service did not incorporate the concept of access and participation in the way community radio stations are defined today, however the first manager Keith Conlon of Radio Adelaide then 5UV had different ideas of opening up and expanding stations programming to promote something that represents a community radio station.
43 years hence, Radio Adelaide is an important part of media landscape of Adelaide and represents different communities with a diversity of voices and views. Broadcasting 24/7 on different platforms including FM Digital Radio and has provides streaming access, podcasts and on demand content via their website at www.radio.adelaide.edu.au, the station is buzzing with activity, with over 400 volunteers, producing over 100 shows a week
When I first met Deb Welch at the CBAA conference last year in 2014 in Adelaide, she proudly described Radio Adelaide as a part of the University of Adelaide. The website and all promo materials proudly display the “part of the University of Adelaide”, tagline. The station acknowledges the role of the University while maintaining its independence of operations.
That brings me to my next question- Given that The University Adelaide effectively handed over the station to the community in terms of access and participation, does that abdicate them from all responsibility of being a financial provider? Do Universities and Institutions of Higher Learning have a responsibility that goes beyond the core activity of teaching and research?
In hindsight I realized that talking about sustainability we failed to consider the role of the licensee organization from a University perspective. What happens when the parent organization puts its hands up and surrenders after four decades of operations? What happens when suddenly the Radio that the parent organization nurtured for many years is suddenly shown the door or threatened to be transferred to a new owner or shut down? Institutional sustainability needs to be measured in multiple ways, not just in terms of vision of the station in isolation.
I believe that just Universities cannot operate in isolation and have responsibility to the community in which they operate. Universities are place based anchors, so are community radio stations, irrespective of their licensee status. Universities as education service provider, also have a responsibility as agents of change and that can happen through discussions, debates, dialogues, analysis and introspection in an alternative media platform opening up the doors to everyone without restriction apart from the other responsibilities as outlined by UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education. And lastly, for a university to contribute to developing and maintaining societies based on democracy, it needs citizens that value diversity which a community media platform like community radio can effectively offer and engage in.
So of the five options, closure of legacy like Radio Adelaide should definitely not be the choice. Option 1 of maintaining status quo or Option 2 where the University commits to a three-five year staged transition, while maintaining the Universities involvement with the station are the most appropriate.
Option 2, is one that I am sure the Indian community media advocates will vouch for. Though, when I visited Radio Adelaide, the University’s support and commitment to the concept of community radio was the one that had me floored.
Read the full University of Adelaide discussion paper
Pinky Chandran, is the Director of Radio Active CR 90.4 MHz and the AIYD Alumni Grant Recipient. She visited Radio Adelaide in November 2014