5 Million Australians, 50 Years: The CBAA Celebrates

5 Million Australians, 50 Years: The CBAA Celebrates

The CBAA is celebrating 50 years since its birth out of a seminar on public broadcasting at UNSW in Sydney, in 1974.

This week marks a major milestone for the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia, as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Founded in July 1974 as the 'Public Broadcasting Association of Australia' (PBAA), the organisation was birthed out of a seminar on public broadcasting at the University of NSW in Sydney. On Sunday, 7 July, this founding group released a public statement outlining their purpose and vision.

“Widely diverse groups in the public broadcasting movement found that they all face an extensive set of common problems before they can get on the air,” the statement said.

“As a result of the formation of the Association, groups as widely distinctive as student broadcasters and university institutional broadcasters, classical music and pop music broadcasters, local suburban regional and metropolitan-wide broadcasters, public affairs and cultural broadcasters, colleges of advanced education and adult education broadcasters, will work closely together in a united front to establish the new public broadcasting sector.”

“This new sector will provide a wider and richer diversity of programmes than possible through the existing commercial and ABC sectors. They will use the new FM and extra AM frequencies which are now becoming available.”

50 Years of Growth

Now, 50 years later, Australia’s community broadcasting sector comprises more than 500 AM/FM/DAB+ services and two dedicated TV services, reaching over 5.19 million people each week. That’s nearly a quarter of all Australians.

A large slice of this reach is achieved by Christian broadcasters alone, which today are heard and watched by more than 2 million people a week.

Above: Christian broadcasters represent a large segment of the community broadcasting sector.

Community broadcasting also generates opportunities for many Australians to contribute, being powered by over 17,000 volunteers and almost 1000 employees, and funded largely through charitable donations.

The Unique Impact of Christian Broadcasting

As part of its 50th year celebrations, the CBAA has produced a 20-minute mini documentary, featuring a wide range of interviews representing the diversity of the sector.

CMAA chair Penny Mulvey appears in the video, speaking about the unique impact that faith-based radio can have in times of turmoil.

“The magic of community radio is that you can find something that somehow speaks into your heart, that lifts your soul and affects you with joy and wonder,” Penny says in her interview.

Above: CMAA Chair Penny Mulvey appears on the CBAA's celebration video.

“Events like 911, huge tragedies, things that we can’t find words for, that we don’t know how to speak into, I don’t think commercial radio has a clue how to do that. They can tell stories, they report news, they can do interviews, but how do you speak into peoples’ hearts, the deep longing, the despair, the fear, the anxiety? That’s something that Christian faith or other faiths can do.

“You know, someone might never listen to Christian radio, but in their moments of total despair, I hope they know that there is a Christian station in their area that they could tune into if they wanted to. Because it is that in those places that you can find messages of hope and messages that speak of love and value and joy.”

True to Its Original Vision

Today the CBAA continues to fulfil its purpose in supporting strong and successful community broadcasters, increasing their capacity and capability, and upholding a diversity of voices and specialist content.

It also works hard in the area of advocacy, presenting a unified and strong voice from the sector to Government leaders and organisations.

The CBAA will be celebrating its 50th anniversary at its conference on the Gold Coast, October 17-19.

Watch the CBAA video below. (CMAA Chair Penny Mulvey appears at 14:54.)

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