Radio essential during the lockdown | radioinfo

Radio essential during the lockdown

Sunday 22 March, 2020

Radio stations are considered essential services, so will stay on air as Australian states go into lockdown and restrict movement.

Many staff, including high profile presenters, will be working remotely.

Television, newspapers and other ‘news media’ are also essential services.

As well as lockdowns, the government has also introduced an assistance package as cases of COVID-19 continue to grow. Small businesses in the radio and audio industries feeling the pinch will be eligible for assistance packages designed to keep staff on the payroll, that will come in the form of tax rebates.

Not-for-profit organisations, such as community radio stations, will be eligible for a tax-free cash payment of up to $100,000, with a minimum payment of $20,000, delivered as a credit on business activity statements from late April. Small businesses and sole traders, such as production and podcast companies will be eligible for similar benefits. For those who lose their jobs during the corona crisis, unemployment benefits have been increased.

Given weaknesses in mobile networks and the NBN, free to air radio will continue to be essential during the coming weeks of lockdowns.

Joan Warner has told radioinfo that commercial radio stations have given an assurance to the minister that they will be able to remain on air during the virus lockdown.

Essential Services Legislation is state-based and flexible about the areas that can be deignated essential. The NSW Legislation lists essential services such as:

energy, power or fuel or of energy, power or fuel resources,
public transport, food supplies
fire-fighting services,
public health and ambulance services,
pharmaceutical products,
garbage, sanitary cleaning or sewerage services,
water,
welfare institutions,
prisons,
a service declared to be an essential service under subsection (2),
any service declared by the Governor to be an essential service for the purposes of this Act.

The precedent for essential sservices goes back to 'reserved occupations during war time. In 1939, reserved occupations (essential services) included these designations at the time:

Wireless Stations and Radio Manufacture announcers, electrical mechanics, engineers, leading hands, maintenance tradesmen, managers, valve makers; cabinet makers, wiremen.

 
In 1942, radio stations were listed in the second highest essential services category, just below munitians manufacturers, aerodromes and hospitals.

"They include State Government administration, newspapers, road transport, wireless radio stations, and dairy farniing."  Trove, National Library

In other countries, particularly throughout Asia, there is much more explicit designation of media as an essential service. For example, in Malaysia, "Radio communication including broadcasting and television" are listed in the essential services designation, along with other primary services that must be allowed to stay open during a crisis.

 
 Covid-19 Picture: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases USA.
 
 
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