Footy’s indigenous radio service on brink of collapse

Footy’s prized indigenous radio service is in on the brink of collapse because of a lack of league funding. AFL Indigenous Broadcasting, which beams matches into Australia’s most remote communities via the National Indigenous Radio Service, has been seeking urgent financial assistance from league headquarters for more than two years. It is likely to fold after 20 seasons if funds are not secured before Round 1 next year.

It has emerged the AFL arranged talks with Craig Hutchison’s company, Crocmedia, about entering into partnership with AFL Indigenous Broadcasting early last year.

The proposed arrangement, which was rejected, involved AFL Indigenous Broadcasting agreeing to take on some of Crocmedia’s calls of AFL matches.

AFL Indigenous Broadcasting head Andrew Underwood made it clear the transmission of Crocmedia’s commercial content on a community radio service would be in breach of regulations.

Repeated emails and phone calls from Underwood to key AFL staff in recent months have gone unanswered.

Underwood told the Herald Sun on Monday: “Grand Final day with the first fully indigenous broadcast was very special for all concerned and it would be shattering if we are forced to pull the pin due to a lack of funding.

“We have done all that we can over many years in trying to source corporate support which has always been a challenge. Bendigo Bank and Virgin Australia have been magnificent with their continued support but we are now at the point where we either get help or will be forced to make some very tough decisions.”

Crocmedia controls the bulk of the AFL’s lucrative radio rights landscape and recently purchased the AFL Record, AFLW publications and the annual AFL season guide. The deal includes the licensing of AFL trademarks.

Broadcasts of AFL games on NIRS reach more than 700,000 Australians across 200 city and regional radio stations every weekend in places including Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Alice Springs, Cape York, the Kimberley, far north Queensland, Darwin, Bendigo and Shepparton.

AFL Indigenous Broadcasting, which gives indigenous Australians an opportunity to enter the media industry, made radio history with an all-indigenous commentary team call of this year’s West Coast-Collingwood premiership decider.

The team included Chris Johnson, Tony Armstrong, Darryl White, Josh Hill and Chris Egan.

Underwood has ploughed a significant amount of his own money into the venture since it was established in 1999.

(Courtesy of Herald Sun)