By Carla Gorton
PERTH — Despite the uncertainty that Perth community radio station 6RTR FM (previously 6UVS FM) faced at the beginning of 1991, it is finishing the year off in style.
The station launches into a week-long radiothon on Saturday, November 23, in which broadcasters will be encouraging their many listeners to subscribe financially to the station.
An open day kicks off the week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sanders Building, Myer Street, Nedlands. Tours, live music and delicious food will keep everyone entertained with the station's usual mix of information and fun.
The station's staff, volunteers and supporters have a lot to celebrate. It is only six months since Perth's original FM station recommenced broadcasting at 92.1 on the FM band. With a history that mirrors that of a number of struggling community radio stations across Australia, 6RTR was taken off air in November 1990 by the University of Western Australia, which at that time held the major share in the station's public broadcasting licence.
The move to pull the plug on the station was not a new one. In 1988 the station was saved from a similar threat by a large campaign that mobilised community support behind the station. In 1990, however, UWA had learnt from this previous attempt and moved to suspend broadcasting immediately following a surprisingly quick university Senate decision. The decision to close the station was prompted by the debt that the station had accrued and pressure on the university to cut costs.
A group of volunteers formed immediately after the station's closure and incorporated as Arts Radio Broadcasters. After lengthy negotiations with UWA, it became clear that the station could not resurrect the previous relationship of financial support that it had relied upon for 13 years. The broadcasting licence remained valid, so a submission was made to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to restore the service under a new banner.
On June 1, 1991, after a long campaign to maintain interest and involvement in the station, 6RTR was born. No longer having to walk the tightrope of "university" radio or "community" radio that was often a feature of the station prior to its closure, 6RTR is now a completely self-funded organisation controlling the licence and is free to explore its new role. But it needs support.
The media in Australia are among the most monopolised in the world, and independent news sources are hard to find. As individuals we can't go out and buy our own media empires, so it is imperative that we support alternative media ventures.
6RTR co-producer Clare McNamara told Green Left Weekly that "by supporting community radio, you are not just supporting alternative news and music but an entire democratic decision making structure that involves members, producers etc in what goes to air and ong-term planning of the station".
6RTR was one of the many public radio services was set up before the dismissal of the Whitlam government, when vice-chancellors of all major academic institutions were offered broadcasting licences. Initial grants from the Commonwealth government assisted the establishment of these stations, but since that time financial support has been virtually non-existent. Successive federal governments have much to answer for in inhibiting the potential of the whole public broadcasting sector through consistent neglect.
While the current government is more concerned with keeping in good with its media magnate mates than assisting community radio, it is up to progressive people who value the services and the involvement that these stations provide to keep them on air. So why not subscribe to 6RTR during the radiothon: there are lots of prizes to be won, and you will be supporting independent voices, rather than lining the pockets of Murdoch and Packer.