Community radio, as most people are aware, is a type of radio specifically designed for a group of people in a locality or sharing a similar interest or common goal. Ofcom defines it as this:
Community radio licences are for small-scale, not-for-profit radio stations operated for the good of members of the public, or of particular communities, and in order to deliver social gain.
On Saturday (June 19th), members of community radio from up and down Wales, as well as professors and other people interested in the sector, met at the Atrium, part of the University of Glamorgan. Their goal? To discuss community radio and sustainability.
The day was packed full of interesting speakers. One of the invigorating and thought through presentations was by Voice Radio. They are a community radio born out of the idea of helping young people. Their website explains it as:
Voice FM is the primary initiative of the Youth Activities Project, which was founded in January 2006 as a multi-agency initiative led by Gwent Police and supported by Caerphilly County Borough Council, GAVO (Gwent Association for Voluntary Organisations), schools and community groups.
They have made a fantastic community station, with a great on air sound and listenership involvement. The station has found funding through many different sources and connections – something other community stations need to look forward to. The station provides education for children, and has a Myriad studio set-up in a decommissioned ambulance! Essentially, they are showing to everyone that there are funding and ideas round every corner – a good idea can be made into a viable and successful radio station.
Looking to other parts of the day – in my opinion, the most interesting discussion of the lot was on community news. James Stewart of Glamorgan University. Hyperlocal websites are being talked a lot about at the moment – people such as Adam Westbrook and David Stone talk about the ideas behind local newsgathering and how to run these sites – with great examples from The Lichfield Blog, run by Ross Hawkes, as well as PitsnPots in Stoke-on-Trent, which brings local comment to front in a place as politically diverse as the Potteries. Hyperlocal sites have taken off in the United States as well, with this article in the New York Times showing it well.
But, I digress. Hyperlocal news on the radio is quite forgotten, in some cases. People listen to one radio station all day, generally – and news has to include the latest on international crises and conflicts, as well as national political issues. Local news gets a look in, but a big speech by the Prime Minister can take precedent on most stations.
Some community radio stations have basic news outputs, some do full local documentaries – a wide range, which depends on the resources available to the stations, skills they possess, and their opinion on news. Most stations agree that local news is one of the staple forms of any community project. I personally know at Tudno FM that Tudno Talks gets local people on, talking about local issues, and these stories often run in news.
James Stewart says that community stations are in a unique postion to deliver hyperlocal news – news which can be delivered first, best, and within Ofcom guidelines. He also made the point that radio is a great way for people to tell stories – and not to shy away from investigative journalism. These stories may not change the world, but it will affect the people who are going to listen to you – so the challenge is laid down for community stations to serve the people they broadcast to.
Other parts of it looked at funding and sustainability -the main focus of the event. Marilia Angove made the point in her presentation that the current volunteers can be mentors to the next generation of volunteers – and also that a lot of learning goes on in community radio that isn’t formal, but is very important, and not celebrated. You do everything, and get involved, and learn a lot!
The event was important to all the community stations that went along, and i’m sure that everyone learn’t a lot. Commercial stations can learn a lot from this as well – sustainability and serving your community are all very important, no matter how wide a community you serve.
A fantastic event, and i hope there will be one next year.