The recent Federal Budget just cut a lot of funding to Australia’s arts and cultural organisations. It includes a cut of $1.4 million per annum for community stations broadcasting on digital radio in five capital cities. Melbourne is affected. PBS 106.7FM, the beloved local progressive broadcast service, is affected.
Seriously sour developments just weeks out from the PBS annual Radio Festival running from 16 to 29 May. But community radio is no stranger to adversity. Routinely facing similar funding cuts and pessimistic internet era predictions, the interesting small stations across the country are brave and band together at times like this. And for these two weeks it is a positive festival at the Collingwood-based PBS, celebrating their full-time devotion to the awesome force of music and the people behind it.
It’s important that people have ready access to an alternative attitude in broadcasting, away from the pulp of commercial media. PBS has a focus on little heard music worldwide and their ability to digitally stream to everywhere in that world is threatened by the budget cuts. During the Radio Festival, the generous listeners who subscribe to the station keep it afloat for another year to come; a year of exciting music discovery. There is a magic to hearing a mystery song for the first time, and listening to the show presenter’s enthusiasm.
Almost every day I tune in to PBS, ready to take notes when the back-announcing begins. It’s admittedly a weird grid of shows that requires a serious investment in musical sub-genres and styles, but it’s so incredibly rewarding to someone with an addictive thirst for new music. I’ve volunteered at PBS a few times and all the show announcers themselves are volunteers. The people that run this station seriously do it for the love and are so kind and cool. I was working at reception during a surreal live-to-air performance by Waterfall Person on a show called Stone Love. A super feeling of community flows through the brick buildings and onto the airwaves.
The theme for this year’s Radio Festival is “take the plunge” and if you haven’t listened to the station before, PBS is the perfect gateway, with the keys unlocked, to a world of sounds that you may have never known existed. I felt that way when the car radio at 1am played a berserk Kurt Schwitters spoken word piece and all I could do was just sit there with glee looking at the dial that read 106.7FM.