Community broadcasting is recognised as the unofficial training ground for the media industry. 

We’ve all heard examples of amazing careers that have been kicked off through community radio and television, but where’s the evidence?

The CMTO has partnered with Griffith University Centre for Social and Cultural Research to investigate this unofficial narrative.

The academic research team, Dr Heather Anderson; Dr Bridget Backhaus; Dr Charlotte Bedford; and Dr Poppy de Souza, are all community radio practitioners. 

They set out to interrogate the experiences of people working in the Creative and Cultural Industries who spent considerable time in the Australian community broadcasting sector.

The ‘Community Media Destinations – Spotlight on Creative Industries pilot research project conducted in-depth interviews with six Creative and Cultural Industries practitioners.

Participants in the study were identified through consultation with sector organisations and came from a range of geographical locations and creative industries employment categories.

All of the participants were clearly passionate and positive about their experiences in community broadcasting with many using the word ‘love’ to describe their feelings towards community radio and their ‘craft’, be that storytelling, promoting local music, journalism and/or the technologies themselves.

“So I’m back in community broadcasting, working at a little station (in a regional area) … It’s my hometown. And it’s my happy place. It’s still my happy place. You know, there is no other place that makes my heart sing more than being on air.” (Participant Four)

The team carried out detailed analysis of the interviews and research across the field and found that participation in community broadcasting plays an important and multi-faceted role in the professional development of its practitioners.

The pilot research project highlighted four key areas of impact:

  • Career Pathways – while somewhat fluid, research found a direct and tangible contribution to employment opportunities.

All participants described a rich and varied history of employment, influenced by their involvement in community radio at all points of their career trajectory.

Volunteering was recognised as an important stepping stone, with all participants volunteering in community broadcasting prior to gaining paid employment.

“Without [community radio station] I would not have been afforded an opportunity to be on air at the Js (Triple J).  It wouldn’t have happened. I mean, it was such a formative … It is the founding block of my career and my professional practice.” (Participant Four)

  • Skills development and training – research found participants developed a broad suite of skills which prepared them for future employment and personal development.

The sector was described as a training ground for journalism and almost vital for a successful broadcasting career.

“The first thing I say to people when I’m doing journalism training at the university is ‘go and join that radio station up there’, because quite seriously, you won’t get your foot in the door if you want to do media unless you’ve got some experience now because community radio is the training ground.” (Participant Three)

“I learned how to research. I learned how to write. I learned how to produce. I learned how to be a presenter. You know, I learned how to interview. All of those skills were developed in community media.” (Participant Three)

  • Connections and networks – research found participation was central to shaping personal and professional pathways.

All [participants] named colleagues who had inspired and supported them throughout their careers and displayed an obvious pride in the achievements of their peers. 

For most, professional networks were described interdependently with long-term personal friendships.

“…that was actually really important for forging incredible friendships as well. That lasted … we still maintain, that lasted forever and will last forever.” (Participant Three)

  • Instilling a sense of social responsibility – research found participation was influential on future career pathways and personal lives

The majority of research participants said their involvement in community radio fostered a deep sense of social justice and community.

Because of their involvement in community broadcasting, participants said they were exposed to a wide range of opinions, ideas, and perspectives, and provided opportunities to learn more about the world and generally become more socially aware and politically active.

“We forget a lot of the time community media is a huge social advocate, it doesn’t even matter what kind of station you might be—a Christian station, might be an ethnic station, these are all part of communities that are trying to encourage and support aspects of social inclusion and social justice, … that aspect was really strongly ingrained in me while I was at [the community radio station].” (Participant Six)

The full report is published through Analysis and Policy Observatory online and is accessible by clicking the banner below:

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