Back when Community Radio started in Australia, it was very much a space where people who wanted to produce great stories congregated. As the decades flew past most of the early talks producers got jobs at the ABC, as there was no way of generating a decent income producing audio in the community sector. Funding bodies, like the Australia Council did not see audio production as "art" and the Federal Government wasn't seriously funding content in community radio (unlike the ABC and SBS). So it is no surprise that as the community radio sector grew, it became known more for its music programs than its talks content.
Don't get me wrong, there are thousands of people who talk on community radio everyday, it's just that it's mostly live or at best, a journalist's on-location report. There are exceptions, stations like 4ZZZ, 3CR and FBi who all have creative production on the CMTO AudioLab website have always encouraged feature and documentary making in their stations. There are other stations who are making great documentaries and features and indeed, more importantly, there are other individuals who are committed to making really creative radio.
There are two reasons why we at the CMTO think making creative stories for radio needs to be encouraged. The first is that it sounds so much better than talking heads in a studio- it's that simple. The second is the growing need for a truly independent broadcast media in Australia which is filling the gap left when the ABC became obssessed with "balance" and SBS left its community roots behind. It's about telling the stories which aren't told elsewhere or are unlikely to be told until they are heard on community radio! Capturing them on "tape" rather than broadcasting them live will ensure the widest audience.
Even if you are a critic of the US media, it shouldn't stop you acknowledging the US Public Radio Sector and its incredible success with programs like Democracy Now!, Alternative Radio and, in the area of creative production, This American Life and Radiolab to name a few. Yes, we know their emergence is due to the absence of an ABC or SBS but these programs enlarge the support base of community radio, benefitting every radio station that plays them around the country. They also inspire new work amonst the next generation of independent producers, or content makers as they are known these days.
The Australian community radio sector needs to showcase its best work so that we can revive the passion for great radio production. This is the CMTO's AudioLab- an idea which arose in a discussion amongst the CMTO Board and staff - we should thank Darce Cassidy for coming up with the concept of a virtual showcase linked to training and learning.
We will continue to develop AudioLab in 2013- so send us your great audio pieces even if it is just a moment of brilliance.
THE CMTO TEAM