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Ethnic media needs support – expert

3 May 20190 comments

A strong ethnic media sector is vital in supporting the successful settlement of migrants and refuges in Australia, according to a leading media academic.

Dr John Budarick, who teaches media studies at Adelaide University, says his research shows that ethnic media can facilitate feelings of belonging and social participation among first and subsequent generation migrants.

He says ethnic media can connect migrants and culturally and linguistically diverse Australians with other social groups, as well as with their own local communities.

“On a more practical level, ethnic media are important sources of information. When advice is needed on a range of issues, from health care services to migration law, ethnic media play a vital role,” Dr Budarick says.

“This is not a case of migrants staying in their linguistic “ghettos” and building separate ethnic economies. Rather, it involves seeking sources of relevant, and culturally and linguistically appropriate, information in order to live and thrive in Australian society,” he said, writing for The Conversation.

Dr Budarick said the benefits of ethnic media included providing advice on voting or taxation to migrants or informing elderly migrants of changes to aged care services.

“Ethnic media provide information that is attuned to the particular needs of their audience,” he said.

“This is a service that mainstream media are largely unable to provide, with their focus on a broad audience. But without it, migrants potentially miss out on important information.

“These are also services that benefit both recent migrant groups, such as those from Africa or the Middle East, and more established communities,” Dr Budarick said.

The community ethnic and multicultural broadcasting sector didn’t receive additional funding in the latest federal budget.

But ethnic print and broadcast media have a long history in Australia, dating back to at least 1848 and foreign language broadcasting featured on commercial radio in the 1930s.

Dr Budarick says that today, along with SBS, more than 100 community radio stations broadcast in more than a hundred languages.

But Dr Budarick says this is under threat.

He says ethnic broadcasting is primarily funded through two streams: government funding of SBS, and; funding of community ethnic broadcasters through the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF), which is itself funded federally.

The ethnic community broadcasting peak body in Australia, the National Ethnic and Multicultural Broadcasters’ Council (NEMBC) says an annual indexation freeze in funding introduced by the Liberal government in 2013 has cost the sector almost A$1 million or about 20 per cent of their total support.

A significant fund of $12 million over four years has been granted to the community broadcasting sector but this is generalist funding rather than aimed at ethnic broadcasting specifically, Dr Budarick says.

According to the NEMBC, many ethnic broadcasters are facing a precarious funding environment. This is due to the lack of specialist funding, the costs associated with transitioning to digital broadcasting, and the complexity of the Community Broadcasting Foundation grants process.

“Ethnic media are often thought of as either quaint services for nostalgic migrants, or as dangerous sources of ethnic segregation. For many, the role of ethnic media rarely, if ever, extends beyond a specific cultural, ethnic or linguistic community,” Dr Budarick said.

“What’s missing from this image is the role of ethnic media in facilitating successful migrant settlement,” he said.


Laurie Nowell 
AMES Australia Senior Journalist