Federal government commits $500,000 to study assessing feasibility of Double J expanding to FM radio

The Albanese government made a pre-election promise earlier this year to undertake the study after artists called for the currently digital-only station to expand its broadcast

As part of last night’s federal budget, the Labor government committed half a million dollars to a study assessing the practicalities of expanding ABC station Double J to an FM radio frequency.

Making good on a promise made prior to the federal election, $500,000 has been put aside in the budget for the feasibility study. The study will help determine whether the government-funded Double J – currently a digital-only station – will join its youth-oriented counterpart, triple j, in moving to FM broadcasting.

The announcement comes less than a year after artists made calls for Double J to become an FM station. In March, artists like Missy Higgins, Kasey Chambers, Kate Miller-Heidke and Sarah Blasko launched a petition calling on the then-Liberal government to allocate funding that would allow Double J to pivot to an FM format.

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“At the moment this fantastic digital-only channel plays a lot of new music by female (and non female) artists over the age of 30 but its reach is severely limited,” the group – which also included Vikki Thorn and Deborah Conway – said in a statement that accompanied their petition.

They argued that ageing female artists in Australia get less exposure on FM radio than their male counterparts. “Thankfully, some older male musicians can still have their latest songs heard around Australia on the Triple M network but, sadly, there is no local FM equivalent for women,” they continued.

“Some of us can fortunately still be heard on triple j and community stations. The rest of us benefitted hugely from FM radio exposure in our 20s and 30s and the hits we had in those years continue to receive recurrent airplay for which we are sincerely grateful.”

“However, like our male counterparts, we continue to release new music of which we are proud and we believe that our fans deserve an equal opportunity to hear it on the radio,” they concluded. “The expansion of Double J would be a relatively simple solution to this current inequity for artists and fans alike.”

The same month it was launched, the Australian Labor Party – then still in opposition – backed the petition. Michelle Rowland (then-Shadow Minister for Communications) and Tony Burke (then-Shadow Minister for the Arts and Industrial Relations) both expressed their support for the push, saying it would be “a huge positive step for Australian music”.

In April, now-Prime Minister Anthony Albanese further pledged support for Double J’s potential expansion ahead of the May federal election. The party said they wanted to “take the first steps” to make the station’s FM expansion a reality, promising they would undertake a feasibility study should they be elected.

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In addition to the Double J study, Labor also made good on another one of its pre-election promises – restoring the $84million in ABC funding that was cut by the Coalition government in 2018. In last night’s budget, $83.7million over four years was committed to the national broadcaster.

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