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More community radio stations hitting financial trouble

By Phil Edmonds
Posted 23 February 2017, 11.53am est
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Over the past few weeks another couple of community stations have launched public appeals for "help or go under."

Salford City Radio have launched a crowdfunding campaign following funding cuts and in Stockport, Pure Radio's operator, social charity Pure Innovations, say they can no longer afford to subsidise the radio station

May I first request that if you are from these areas, or otherwise a supporter of community radio, perhaps you'd like to support these stations.

Secondly perhaps it could be a springboard for a bit of a discussion on ways to make community radio more sustainable.

Comments

PRO9 months ago

It's tempting to blame legislation or the regulator; but the reality is that many community radio stations aren't run as businesses. It's also fair to point out that few radio stations earn profits: many are kept alive by benefactors or cashcows in the network. I'm afraid we'll see many more community radio stations close down.

PRO9 months ago

In the case of Pure's situation, if it's a choice between keeping the important practical work the charity provides or a radio station, it's always going to be the essential activities that keep their funding.

One of the frustrating issues I have with some community radio stations is they provide exactly the same type of output as some BBC or commercial stations, which doesn't give them a USP.

There will always be a need for stations that provide a service for minority groups or disenfranchised audiences, but if you look at the majority of these stations that closed, they're the broad general formats that play classic pop hits and specialist shows during the evening with some community information.

There was a real demand for community broadcasting in the 1980s when the Thatcher Government were going to do a trial run of some services, but instead we got the incremental commercial stations by 1990 which were bought up and became mainstream commercial services.

The current community model works for some viable stations, such as Rinse FM which will stop another Kiss FM situation where Emap bailed them out as the station was losing money, which led to them becoming commercial.

8 months, 4 weeks ago

With the exception of the few stations who had 'zero advertising' rules the regulation limits on commercial income I think is largely a red herring.

Having a sustainable "business plan" is the issue. This doesn't have to mean a model of just "selling adverts" - to be a successful "non-profit" you need a "plan".

All too often I see people saying that community stations need to be "commercial radio lite" - ask any of the handful of small commercial operator left, the pure "selling airtime" model is long past a licence to print money.

For right or wrong "the plan" that many stations have been operating with is to be funded through means that are disappearing, so now the challenge is to adapt this plan to something that can keep it going.

The situation with the stations I highlighted is that they are in the somewhat unique Greater Manchester conurbation. We've many wider regional, Greater Manchester wide and small commercial operators as well as a high density of hyper local community radio stations, that's before you even get to the selection of specialist interest stations on the DAB mini-mux and the comparatively high budget BBC Radio Manchester. (I'd call us 'Radio City' if I didn't think them nice folks down the M62 might have something to say about that!)

At this point can I hand over to James to do the comparison on number of Community Radio vs Commercial vs ABC stations in Australian cities?

I don't recall hearing any "we're going under" cries from Auz community radio stations, or is it just that down under they've decades more indoctrination that listeners should directly pay for the stations through donations?

PRO8 months, 4 weeks ago

At this point can I hand over to James to do the comparison on number of Community Radio vs Commercial vs ABC stations in Australian cities?

In Brisbane - population 2 million - we've (roughly, analogue only):

The community stations have the same power and coverage area as the commercials in most cases.

I don't recall hearing any "we're going under" cries from Auz community radio stations, or is it just that down under they've decades more indoctrination that listeners should directly pay for the stations through donations?

There's a larger grant system here, but parts of it are under threat.

What we do have is a massively professional CBAA- the community broadcaster's association. They provide all kinds of services for community radio, including music distribution, a national news service, and two full sustaining services delivered via satellite (a music service and the World Service). I've visited a few times - it is a very impressive machine and lobbying body to Canberra. It is everything the CMA is not.

I'm in the UK community radio groups in Facebook and email, and my overwhelming impression of UK community radio is that it's a chaotic, badly-run gaggle of self-indulgent argumentative whingers that are impossible to take seriously. Services sound awful, have little actual community benefit, and mostly deserve to fail.

8 months, 3 weeks ago

We need more aboriginal/country stations in the UK.

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