• Tony Bosworth

Ex-Mayor calls for single Hawkesbury radio licence – ACMA says not likely

When the 2019/20 bushfire emergency was on, the Hawkesbury had no one single local news source and it’s led Hawkesbury councillor and ex-Mayor Barry Calvert, who is also the interim President of Harmony FM, to call for a single radio licence for the Hawkesbury once again.

But the government licensing body ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) says that’s not likely to happen.

“I am calling on the Commonwealth Government to issue a radio licence to one single entity in the Hawkesbury as soon as possible,” Harmony FM President Calvert said.

“Our residents have been seriously disadvantaged by the fact that the local licence has been split into four parts with four separate entities having the right to broadcast for about one quarter of the week each.”

Harmony FM's interim President and ex-Hawkesbury mayor Barry Calvert

If you’ve tried to listen to a local radio station recently in the Hawkesbury you may well have been confused – even frustrated - about those four different options, all on the same frequency but broadcasting on different days.

The current situation dates from October 2017 when the long term community broadcasting licence to broadcast on the 89.9 frequency - held at that time by Hawkesbury Radio Communications Cooperative Society Ltd (also known as 2VTR) - expired and was not renewed, ACMA ruling the broadcaster wasn’t complying with requirements around community participation.

Since then ACMA has issued rolling one year Temporary Community Broadcasting Licences (TCBLs) for the 89.9 frequency to four separate broadcasters.

“This means that there is absolutely no continuity in the programming during the week and listeners are often tuning in wondering exactly what will be broadcast on any particular day,” Cllr Calvert said.

“The only way that listeners can be sure of the continuity is to only tune in to the local radio once a week. This is just not good enough.

“During the recent bushfires locals were calling out for more specific local information and many expressed great disappointment that we didn’t have a local radio station that could provide this. This situation could put our residents in danger and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

“There are a number of local volunteers running the part time radio stations at the moment and the Commonwealth Government should recognise the good work done by these volunteers and acknowledge that these locals are ready and capable of running a full time station in the Hawkesbury,” said Cllr Calvert.

Pic: Kamila Ferreira

The four Hawkesbury broadcasting stations are:

· Hawkesbury Radio Communications Association Inc (HRCA) (on air: Hawkesbury Radio, also known as 2VTR)

· Hawkesbury Valley Community Radio Association Inc (HVCR) (on air: Hawkesbury Gold)

· Consortium of Australian Media Services Inc (CAMS) (on air: WHCR)

· Hawkesbury Harmony community Radio Association Inc (HHCR) (on air: Harmony FM)

The current TCBLs are valid for 12 months from 6 December 2020 and will expire on 5 December 2021.

A spokesperson for ACMA told the Post,

“The ACMA has no current plans to begin a process to allocate a long term licence in this area.

“The ACMA acknowledges the importance of community radio broadcasting to the Hawkesbury community.

“There is significant effort involved in potential applicants, usually staffed by volunteers, preparing applications as part of an allocation process, particularly given that the legislative requirements to be allocated a long term licence are more substantial than to be allocated a TCBL.

“The ACMA continues to encourage the current TCBL holders to work together to deliver a valuable and reliable service to members of the Hawkesbury community.”

Main pic: Brett Sayles

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