The Super Station in Orkney closes

By Art Grainger
Posted 17 November 2014, 12.56pm est

It’s always sad to see a station close – but this time I have to say that I’m not too surprised.

Orkney’s Superstation, as community radio goes, was probably one of the slickest, most professional and upbeat sounding of them all, sounding not that different from a very large ILR – but then that’s probably the point.

Whenever I tuned in to the station, aside from all the good things above, the station did NOT sound like a community station – or even a local station.

Despite being in the very far north of Scotland, it sounded very, very, very English. There were almost no Scottish dialects on it (except for a small number of commercials) and there were certainly no local dialects on it. Most adverts were also produced in England, using English voice-overs.

The station’s attempts to put out local information, especially for travel and weather, could only be praised – except that those English presenters (who made almost all of the schedule) often got the pronunciation of the local place names very wrong.

Such was the schedule of the Superstation that Dave Pearce had a show on it. An English dance DJ playing styles of dance music that are NOT popular in the north of Scotland – Scotland has its own dance music scene, even in the far north.

Also, whilst the station had “studios” in Kirkwall, for most of the time the building was in darkness. The shows were distributed to it from other parts of the UK – even the daytime shows. Also, very recently, the island suffered from appalling weather and drastic powercuts, which was acknowledged by the BBC (Radio Scotland, Radio Orkney – and even Radio 2) – but in the Superstation’s world, nothing unusual was going on. It was still churning out the hits with presenters doing very slick, generic links and the occasional reference to what they watched on TV last night.


5 years, 6 months ago

If I recollect right, that wasn’t like a CR at all, but sounded rather like a “syndicated” “Pop/A.C.” or even posh “Top 40”... erh.. something.

I couldn’t seem to notice anything of local letting alone ‘community’ there.

If I recollect right, of course…

There’s (was) a radiostation being much more ‘far north’ than Orkney. The Shetlands’ — SIBC, isn’t it?

Is it a CR or rather something else?

5 years, 6 months ago

SIBC is a commercial radio station owned locally which has a CHR format.

5 years, 6 months ago

SIBC is an ILR – not a community station. It is funded entirely by commercials.

The Superstation, being a licensed community station, could raise no more than 50% of its income from advertising, the rest has to come from grants. If advertising was decreasing, that’s a problem on its own – but if you have to strive to ensure that no more than 50% of your revenue comes from it, then it is quite hard to find funding from other sources to make up the other 50%.

Orkney has a small population (20,000) and grants are not very forthcoming. Orkney, like Shetland and much of the North-east of Scotland are very wealthy areas, with very low unemployment – so you wouldn’t be able to get access to the kind of funding schemes that are available for, say, places like Easterhouse in Glasgow, which try to address the problems of deprivation and poverty.

However, at times I couldn’t help but think – as an armchair critic on this occasion (but one who has dabbled in community radio), that the Superstation’s almost total lack of a local presence and local volunteers, as well as a building that was quite unused whilst programs were almost entirely broadcast from satellite studios in England, was a contributing factor to its demise. How can you expect to get support from grant funding organisations when you’re not letting (enough) local people get involved?

Having said all of that, if The Superstation was an ILR station, would it be operating in a similar way to SIBC, which is by now one of the oldest surviving ILR stations which has not changed ownership or brand – or even its sound?

5 years, 6 months ago

Also, just to point out that whilst SBC is a business model on its own accord, there are other ILR stations in Scotland that are staffed almost entirely by volunteers, some of which have exceeded 20 years of broadcasting.

5 years, 6 months ago

A typo, Art?
(Consider it a test...)

5 years, 6 months ago

I always thought it had a very professional sound.

5 years, 6 months ago

It's fairly easy to make a "professional sound" when the computer does everything and you VT links in advance. It can all sound very tight. I have done it - even using OTS-DJ. It's very impressive.

Running a community station, with volunteers, is harder. Doing it remotely would have meant a lot of sacrifices and I think it's fair to say that most of the Superstation's staff spent little or no time in Orkney - so as a community station, it falls on its backside.

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