“Our revenue looks incredibly uncertain”: Sydney’s FBi Radio launches fundraising campaign

"We're obviously hurting, the whole sector is"

Sydney community broadcaster FBi Radio has launched a fundraising campaign in the face of “unprecedented threats to its future” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Station managing director Nikki Brogan told NME Australia that FBi has taken a significant hit to its advertising revenue stream, hence the plea for donations. “We’re obviously hurting, the whole sector is,” she said.

“We are mostly funded by the community – less than five per cent of our funding comes from government, so everything else comes from sponsorship and membership. Considering around 80 per cent of our current [sponsors] are music, arts and hospitality… it means that for us, our revenue over the next little while looks incredibly uncertain.”

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Arts and hospitality are the two of the sectors that have been impacted the hardest due to the pandemic. Recent figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics found less than half of arts and recreation businesses, and two-thirds of hospitality businesses, are currently operating. More than half of all workers in both sectors are predicted to lose their jobs. The same ABS figures found that only two-thirds of businesses in the information media and telecommunications sector (which includes radio broadcasters) were operating.

The fundraising campaign, titled Your Team In Quarantine, was announced last week. In a statement provided to NME Australia, a spokesperson said: “We want to be there to celebrate with industry and artists when everyone is back on their feet; on stages, in studios, across dancefloors. Your Team In Quarantine is all about cultivating local creativity and keeping Sydney connected even in physical isolation.”

Your Team In Quarantine asks listeners to become a financial supporter of the station and pay a monthly membership fee, or make a one-off tax-deductible donation. FBi declined to specify a public financial target tied to the campaign.

📻💛 FBi RADIO: YOUR TEAM IN QUARANTINE 💛📻In this time of crisis, FBi Radio is making sure that you’re not alone. Think…

Posted by FBi Radio on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Hack presenter Avani Dias shared the station’s call for donations last week, saying “[FBi Radio is very] dear to my heart – it gave me a start in media and lifelong friends”.

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This isn’t the first time FBi Radio has put out a call for financial help. When the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2009, the station ran its Save FBi campaign, which programmed a number of community fundraising events. This time around, throwing parties or other real-life events aren’t an option.

“We know that we’re in need but also we’re needed as part of this ecosystem. Throwing a festival or party that helps raise funds isn’t necessarily something we can explore at the moment,” Brogan said.

“We are working with our staff and volunteer base to think about what things have helped us get through tough times in the past.”

According to the treasurer’s report submitted at the station’s most recent annual general meeting in December, FBi “[recorded] a trading loss for the first time in many years” in the 2018-2019 financial year. Today, station management is assessing its current financial state and considering various changes.

“What we’re doing at the moment is looking at our core operations and understanding what it means for us to be a community radio station in a global pandemic,” Brogan said.

As part of this process, Brogan has said the station is “looking at making changes to [its] operating costs”. The station currently employs the equivalent of seven full-time staff, but “it’s likely that amount will change whether that’s hours or head count,” Brogan said. Two hundred volunteers actively participate in the station’s on-air and off-air operations as well.

“The threats that have popped up quite rapidly have meant we have needed to re-evaluate every part of the organisation to make sure we’re able to set ourselves up to succeed in what is probably going to be a trying time,” Brogan said.

While asking for donations is one aspect of Your Team In Quarantine, Brogan said it’s as much about giving as it is receiving. For instance, FBi will be increasing the amount of Australian music broadcast on its airwaves. Many of the station’s programs already have local music quotas, but the station’s general playlist, which currently plays roughly one Australian song for every international song, will now play five Australian tracks for every three made overseas.

Sydney FBi Radio fundraising campaign coronavirus pandemic revenue uncertain
A live performance organised by FBi Radio. Image courtesy FBi Radio

The station’s team are also looking at how to adapt flagship events, such as the monthly Music Open Day and the Tracks Western Sydney music project, for the digital space. In the past month, FBi has been forced to cancel 10 events, which would have generated revenue for the station.

“We’re also looking at a few content projects that will lean more towards visual arts, where we commission a few artists to create work to share in the community,” Brogan said.

“Sydney music, arts and culture doesn’t necessarily have to go into hibernation. The main aim of the campaign is to continue that spirit of collaboration rather than driving it as a fundraising campaign with X amount of dollars needed to save FBi.”

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