NATIONAL INDIGENOUS RADIO SERVICE
The first test broadcast for the National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS) was in July 1994 at an annual general meeting of the National Indigenous Media Association of Australia (NIMAA), with the official launch on 25 January 1996. The idea for a national Indigenous broadcasting service was discussed in Indigenous circles for decades before finally coming to fruition following recommendations in the 1988 government-commissioned Digital Dreaming report on Indigenous broadcasting. Despite broad federal government acceptance of the report’s recommendations, the political will to fund a national Indigenous broadcasting service lagged well behind Indigenous expectations. However, with strong support from Labor Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Robert Tickner, the first Indigenous national broadcasting service in Australia emerged almost unheralded.
With technical advice from the ABC, the national network was designed to use several major satellite uplink sites from which Indigenous-produced programming could be sent to Indigenous communities around the country that had the appropriate reception equipment. The original aim was that the NIRS would provide programming to community radio broadcasters who had no resources to produce their own material.
The 24-hour-a-day service allows communities to switch it off when desired to enable them to broadcast their own local radio programs. However, because of limited resources in most remote Indigenous communities, the NIRS is often the only available Indigenous radio service. The Brisbane-based network uses a wide variety of music and talk produced by Indigenous media associations around the country. The NIRS reaches around 300 community radio stations across Australia, forming a network that rivals the ABC in terms of its reach and diversity.
This includes around 120 Remote Indigenous Broadcasting Services (RIBS) communities, 23 dedicated Indigenous radio stations and an additional 120 community radio stations that include Indigenous programming in their formats.
REFs: M. Meadows and H. Molnar, ‘Bridging the Gaps: Towards a History of Indigenous Media in Australia’, Media History, 8(1) (2002) and Songlines to Satellites (2001).