A statement on the Broadcasting Bill by communications minister Richard Bruton TD has been broadly welcomed by the representative body Community Radio Ireland (CRAOL), especially the potential increase in Sound & Vision funding, and the granting of bursaries to journalists in local and community stations and the exemption from the broadcasting levy.
However, CRAOL chairperson Declan Gibbons is concerned that the minister’s statement refers to the levy exemption being open to only “some”, but not others. “All community radio stations are not-for-profit community groups who play a vital role in ensuring a diverse mix of services and depend upon grant aid and donations to exist,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons called on the minister to do the right thing here and exempt all community stations from the levy that signed up to the AMARC charter. If IMRO and the PPI understand community radio and facilitate a flat rate for all stations – independent of income – should the regulator not do likewise? He urged the minister to ensure that there will be no levy.
Every week, 2,000 community radio volunteers broadcast to 170,000 people in 21 licensed stations. CRAOL points out that community radio is volunteer-led and driven, with the support of professional staff. It is not a competitor to the commercial radio broadcasters, but is an extra service licensed and supervised by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).
The BAI’s Sound and Vision scheme, funded by the television licence fee, provides support for making documentaries and radio drama. Local council and leader scheme grants help as well as community job schemes. The stations provide diversity in programme production and presentation, with news and current affairs and documentaries of community interest.
They specifically encourage writers and dramatists in the community.