Rally saves radio funding


By Alison Dellit

NEWCASTLE — On June 25, the Newcastle University Council debated a motion to withdraw funding from the university and community radio station 2NUR FM.

2NUR is the only community radio station in the Hunter region. It broadcasts for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and provides the only local non-English-speaking programs, as well as gay and lesbian, feminist and alternative programs. The station also broadcasts internationally via the internet.

2NUR was set up in 1978 as part of the university's bachelor of communication studies, a course now internationally acclaimed. Newcastle Uni students use 2NUR to co-produce a national news bulletin broadcast to all Australian community radio stations.

Despite this, Newcastle University has been anxious to stop funding. This resulted in a "business plan" for 2NUR, designed to make the station self-funding by 2002. The announcement that the council intended to cut funding before that date met enormous opposition.

Both Newcastle and Lake Macquarie city councils passed unanimous motions deploring the potential decision. It was also opposed by Newcastle Trades Hall, Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, Green Left Weekly, the Newcastle Breakers, the Central Coast Jazz Society, Resistance and the Newcastle Students Association, among others.

A hastily organised rally outside the council meeting attracted more than 600 people, most of them regular listeners of the station. The crowd was addressed by Professor Godfrey Tanner, who said that without independent media, our information would be "cooked to serve the domestic and foreign policies of our great media owners".

Natt Geoffrey, NBN weatherman for the Hunter, pointed out that two commercial companies owned all of the commercial FM broadcasters in Newcastle, and blamed the decision on "that most insidious disease, economic rationalism". Other speakers included Bernie Griffen from Trades Hall Council, Michael Kachel from the Newcastle University Students Association and two students from St Francis Xavier College, who had collected more than 700 signatures against the closure at their school.

At the conclusion of the council discussion, the rally was addressed by Vice-Chancellor Roger Holmes, who expressed support for the station, and announced that the council had decided to establish a committee to investigate funding options.

The committee is due to report in August, which gives it only six weeks. It will consist of five representatives, none from the station. 2NUR supporters and members are preparing for a long fight.