After 14 years, it's time to reflect.
Updated Sunday 3rd November 2013 at 11:18 pm
Revised Sunday 17th November 2013 at 1:21 pm
Aside from being the biggest update in 2PR FM's history, it's coming at a time where my aspirations are moving toward a more reflective and broader view on recent events. It's honest for me to say that during the history of this station, our resolve is being put through its roughest test. Considering Sydney's current radio landscape, a radio station with an archival playlist, and one that advocates for disabilities is certainly in desperate need. Conscious of not wanting to blame what has happened or not on my Asperger's Syndrome, it's something that has to be taken into account when considering the time, amount of effort, and commitment I've placed into this station, and then never having the chance to be heard and taken seriously.
There is a general observation with family friends and others I've met, that there is something extraordinarily inequitable regarding the rejections I've experienced, but at the same time advice has been given that I should step back a little. Mindful on not coming across as arrogant, I want to appreciate the people I'm contacting operate busy and involving roles, thus they may not have the time for a meeting. Conversely I'm extremely frustrated that there has been no proper engagement with any actively sitting minister / government department, and no progress regarding a terrestrial license. Though there has been a few short meetings with shadow ministers, dialog has been tepid at best. I want to be reasonable with people, but being given a defiant "NO" after 14 years of hard work has been a rather dehumanising experience.
On the positive side, 2013 is looking like the first year where we have been broadcasting on every calendar day, established reasonable copyright deals through LoudCaster and APRA, and of this week, re-established our low-band stream for those listeners who are still on dial-up internet.
In our efforts of promoting the station and our goals, we have also attended several social gatherings and meetings, including Aspect NSW, and the NSW Carers expo which was held at Martin Place a few weeks ago. Many flyers were distributed, and further press coverage highlighted our licensing efforts during September, in combination with our Election Campaign which aired back in August.
Most importantly our focus is clearer and more defined then ever, to give Sydney a station that plays music from a large archive of music, with news bulletins and information exclusively about disability issues. In light of recent developments however, I may have to accept that it will take much longer then expected, and come in a different form, such as digital radio.
Our efforts are coming up against a very established and unforgiving culture, as there is an attitude that we use our handicap as an excuse. The social complexities of trying to discuss these issues are many, as we don't ever want to play the victim, but at the same time, many of us are doing it much tougher then anyone in the main-stream government or establishment could ever comprehend. The disability support pension does not cover the cost of a Sydney rent (of a modest unit), and government housing is not suitable for everyone. The last government unit I was offered was only one third the size of my current flat, not at all suitable when considering my Asperger's and claustrophobia.
A recent BBC television report noted common sentiments expressed on the various social networks, regarding those with a handicap. These comments include; "disabled people don't have to pay any bills, do they?", "Is your daughter normal then?", "people like you should be in a home", and the absolute worst of human nature, "it's not fair that the rest of us have to deal with your problems". The reality that such attitudes still exist in the 21st century is rather horrifying - it would be naive to believe that this mentality does not exist in the upper echelons of Australia's governing regime. Communicating this reality in a factual and interesting way is not easy.
A radio station would be the perfect medium to enlighten many about these injustices and issues. Aside from the struggles and hardships, they would also be stories of triumph and success to encourage and motivate those who feel hopeless. The ethos behind such a program format is to celebrate who we are as able spirited persons, and show that we have just as much to contribute as everybody else to this great world - if we were given the chance.
Though the national disability scheme would assist some who need equipment like wheelchairs and visual aides for blindness, it only just touches the surface. They are many with what are called "The Invisible disabilities", such as Asperger's Syndrome, Mental Illness, and other conditions that are not instantly obvious. It's here where the understanding is limited to non existent - another issue where regular discussion on a radio station would bring more awareness.
I feel the main obstacle to finding any paid work, is that employers are worried about my low vision. This is both in regards to OH&S issues, and a slower work output. Being reasonable I would like to appreciate they're running a business, not a charity, however at the end of the day I still have to eat. I've often been advised that self-employment would be the perfect solution to my situation hence the radio station idea. Regardless on how fast or slow a person with a disability may work, a radio station will play the same amount of songs and advertisements every hour.
Many work places assess Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which in reality is a rough call for most on a disability. During the recruitment process, if an employer has 50 applicants on their books, there is some understanding why some with a disability would be last on the list. However there should be much more consideration given to assist those who do make the effort. This is where one doesn't want to have the mentality that rules apply to everyone else but me, but when dialog is possible, reasonable compromises can be made.
The agenda in Sydney media is driven either by boat illegals, environment taxes, or life style shows. Aside from the occasional mention of the NDIS, handicap issues rarely get exposure. During our election campaign through August, I had approached Channel 7, 9, and the ABC's 7:30 report, and was told that their schedule was commissioned for the foreseeable future. We proposed our television community announcement to Channel 7 and 9, and pitched the story of a radio station that advocates for those with a disability to the 7:30 report. Despite 17.1% of Sydney's population either being handicapped themselves, or being an unpaid carer of someone who is, none of the channels had no interest. This is a considerable part of Sydney's population without a radio voice - This is so wrong and immoral.
I want to avoid brooding over how impenetrable the departments who govern the radio spectrum, any politician, or authoritive figure have been because a:) it ain't going to gain much and b:) criticizing people or entities would only discourage others from dealing with us. I feel dialog is much better then discord - it is the complete lack of any dialog which is the cause of my severe frustration.
According to our last article in the St George leader, the Department of Broadband and Communications are not going to budge. Their spokes woman noted, "under the Broadcasting Services Act, the Australian Communications and Media Authority had no capacity to allocate commercial licenses through a process other than a priced-based system (auction)". Apparently my local MP noted I would need to get a large amount of people interested, for the department to even consider such a radio station.
But for a moment, let's question the concept of pulling together a certain amount of people. Is this really the criteria for getting policy change? Is the "Broadcasting Services Act" drafted by politicians or by people power? First, there is a Schedule C in the Clerks Award, that allows the government to exploit those with a disability. But on the other hand, the handicap can't get a special license to exploit a government's asset like the radio spectrum, so they can earn the same kind of income as others in the commercial radio industry. Very strange, isn't it?
Another example where a government has "just made up" legislation, is the NSW government's recent implementation of the UK style "Bedroom Tax" for those living in NSW Housing accommodation, or receiving the special rental subsidy. Unless I've got a very bad case of amnesia, I can't remember tens of thousands of people marching down McQuarie Street demanding the NSW government to implement such a tax. It's here that it is rather obvious that a government can change legislation whenever it pleases them.
Though this is certainly not the case for all on the DSP, a good portion would have needed to rely on family, friends, and charity at one stage - often for a lengthy period of time. A few times I've lived on nothing but toast, jam, and instant pasta for weeks at a time, can a government bureaucrat think about that for just a few moments? If the handicap could enjoy the same income level as everybody else, their sense of self-worth and confidence is greatly increased, benefiting everyone in their circle. This is particularly so when noting the cost of living. Groceries and food has doubled (in some cases tripled) in price over the last 18 months, however the DSP has only increased by 5%. For example - a meal I have during summer is creamy noodle salad from the fridge. In January this year, it was priced at $2.08 for 350g, and now has increased to $4.75 for exactly the same brand and weight.
I'm very aware with being unemployed for so long, that one can become a loner and a drifter. This thought has been very central to the reasons why I've worked hard, and have placed so many thousands of hours into this radio station project. If ACMA were to grant me a license, or an existing radio network were to make this station part of their digital offering, then I thought someone with a serious commitment would be more important, over someone who tries this here and that there. If I were a media manager, these would be the attributes I would want in a potential partner - not one who would get bored or give up when things became difficult.
I don't want to forever gloat over the amount of work I've placed into 2PR FM, but somehow my efforts really have been ignored, and I'm at a loss on knowing how to address this. Since the first Alpha version of 2PR FM hit the web in July 1999, I've:
a:) researched, produced, and printed hundreds of top 40 music charts.
b:) typed, designed, and regularly updated the entire 2PR FM website.
c:) trialled, tested, and arranged various hosts for hosting the radio station's site, and streaming audio.
d:) produced hundreds of hours of radio shows.
e:) designed, printed, and distributed thousands of flyers, brochures, and pamphlets across Sydney for promoting the station and its goals.
f:) evolved website through the different technologies and platforms, such as audio on demand, podcasting, myspace, facebook, twitter, and blogs.
g:) digitise over 15,000 tracks from CDs and records to WAVs, and manually mastered each individual track to TM Century standards for live broadcasting.
h:) researched, compiled, and professionally printed a three part submission totaling around 500 pages, which more then justifies 2PR FM's need for obtaining a terrestrial FM broadcast license.
i:) initiated petition for demonstrating support and need for such a radio station.
j:) sent hundreds of letters and press releases to politicians, governments, businesses, agencies, social figures, celebrities, current affair programs, newspapers, television channels, and etc for the efforts of lobbying.
k:) completed courses - in particular a Certificate IV Music Industry Studies at Gymea Tafe in 2008, for understanding music copyright, and how it relates to terrestrial radio broadcasting.
l:) attended various social groups and expos, such as Aspect NSW and NSW carers, for fielding out what issues are driving the disability agenda.
m:) regularly checked out forums and boards to keep abreast of the radio industry, and knowing what the competition is doing.
n:) tested stream providers, and successfully have been live broadcasting since August 2009.
o:) researched, and purchased appropriate hardware and software for the operations of the station.
p:) sourced professional talent for voice overs and station IDs.
q:) produced television ads promoting 2PR FM and its petition.
r:) and to show that this project is a true commitment, there has been a fair few articles about 2PR FM, including several articles in the St George Leader, Sydney Morning Herald, and The Age.
Finding the right shade of gray in a dog-eat-dog world:
To reiterate, all the accomplishments in this project were made despite living with 20% vision in one eye, moderate asperger's syndrome, and a disability support pension as my only income. Aside from demonstrating what I can do, the most important part was a drive to do something unique and different, rather then just another person living off the social security system.
As noted above, I thought showing the initiative to do something regardless of ones unemployment, commitment in taking something through the good and bad over an extended period of time, and motivation for doing something different would have been looked upon admirably, and at least would have earned me some credibility. Instead for reasons that are completely inexplicable, I'm being begrudged for placing so much effort into this radio station project. My group of friends and I were dumbfounded on why this was so, as one of them clearly heard the sentiments expressed from an unintentional ears drop into a neurotypical's conversation.
This particular friend was very keen to do a chart show. When he and I were having lunch in town last week, he's eyes lid up (one of those wow moments), when I told him that I would love to give him the chance. Just like me, he is also a chart whiz, only his knowledge is much more extensive then mine, hence why I would love to have him aboard.
If after everything that I've done, acceptance and validation are not forthcoming in any form from the powers above (government / corporate) - I just don't know what to say or do anymore. Over the last fourteen years, many have seen my efforts, as best as I can present them on the internet. The days of sitting down, having a coffee, and seeing what a person really is are gone. I would have liked the opportunity to show how genuine I am with this radio project, and not just another someone hiding behind a computer or website.
Having Asperger's Syndrome makes reaching out a major challenge. In my case I have a short attention span, difficulties in navigating eye contact (I don't want to stare, or no eye contact at all), and knowing how much or little to say in a conversation. I am just not clued up on knowing where to find the middle ground with these social behaviours, despite often getting out and about. This may make me come across as rude or strange, but is certainly not my intension. Having these Asperger attributes makes it virtually impossible to establish any firm social networks, thus making it difficult to build a track record and credibility - essentially two key qualities if one wants to succeed in such a competitive environment. With this in mind, I thought never giving up would of been one of my best qualities in selling myself - fourteen years commitment must count for something.
In a nutshell, it's sad that there is so much greed and ill will, but I guess that's my reality check in the dog eat dog world we live in. I thought if I made the best attempts ever to be productive, in spite of my situation; somebody may of picked up on my initiative, motivation, and drive, but obviously this doesn't seem to be enough - I don't know what is enough anymore. One would of thought a project like this would of meant being distinguished, from the rest of the long term unemployed who sleep in all day and loiter around town centres.
17.1% of Sydney now has "no" radio voice
I have a group of six very keen handicapped friends, and if 2PR FM was licensed, this would of been another seven off the unemployment line. With several dozen signatures on our petition (not bad considering the minimal exposure), we have something great, but no-one above who wants to listen.
To finish off on what has been a rather embittering experience, I would like to look upon this as another page in my life, and to move on. Understandably I'm rather emotional about what has happened over recent years (or lack of), but with this in mind I don't want to fall into the trap of letting the frustration turn into anger and resentment, ultimately poisoning my sense of well-being. If you're familiar with my documentary "Rainman goes to Rockwiz", I speak about my "Earth 2" beliefs, and want to keep my mind centered on these feelings of hope and peace.
In the end, I thought at least one of three things would have happened.
a:) I would have been granted a special broadcast license, based on the material presented in my submission.
b:) If that was to ambitious then an offer of digital spectrum would of sufficed, if the FM spectrum is really full or.
c:) To be working with someone from either ACMA or the Department of Broadband and Communications - working through other license options such as HPON with an exemption to the license and application fees.
14 years of work….. I don't know what to say to absolute mind blowing apathy and indifference.
I've been told that the FM spectrum in Sydney is almost to completely full, but I guess that's like a room being full - there's always some clutter that can go. I think the spectrum could of been appointed more efficiently - but I guess that's easy for me to say from my own point of view. It is just worth noting that 17.1% of Sydney's population has a disability of some sort or is caring for someone who is. Based on data from Australia's Bureau of Statistics, they are other demographic groups that only represent less then 1.5% of Sydney's population. It is these groups that have Sydney wide broadcast licenses. I suppose something being full is open to interpretation uh? But this is what happens when licenses are granted to every little demographic group in Sydney, rather then being based on merit and need.
But with all that said, I'm completely out of words, out of ideas - What else is their to say - I don't know!!! As I said to someone in my family the other day, c'est la vie - such is life! On the brighter side, we are fully licensed to broadcast over the internet, and the entire website has been put through a major overhaul, including a complete rework of the retro links list - this contains a number of great new chart site links.
Updated Friday 1st November 2013 at 1:10 am
Just a short note that this web-site has had substantial maintenance today, and that they will be another major major update coming within the next few days, my friends and I have just been through the grinder from hell - and things are not great at present. A small consolation - of today we have just added a low-band stream to our broadcast. This can be found in our twitter feed. We have not yet got around to configuring a new Loudcaster feed for this yet, so with all the limbs and parts of my body almost falling off, I'm about to wrap it up here for tonight, and further updates will come soon.