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Government relaxes funding rules for community radio

From a press release to news@media.info
Posted 22 January 2015, 6.39am est

Ross Murray
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Community radio stations across the UK are set to benefit from a package of changes that will help them thrive and continue to provide a valued radio service to their local communities, in an announcement made today.

Current rules mean there are strict financial limits in place on how much income the 217 community radio stations in the UK can generate from advertising and sponsorship. Under the planned changes, all community radio stations will all be able to raise at least £15,000 in income from commercial sources before any limits kick in.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for the Digital Economy, said:

“Community radio stations are at the heart of the localities they serve. They provide an important relevant service alongside the BBC and commercial radio. These changes will make sure that community radio stations can raise the funding they need to remain viable and can continue to provide a valuable community focused service.”

Welcoming the news Dom Chambers, Chair of the Community Media Association, said:

"Community radio has proved itself a powerful medium that drives positive social change by impacting on participants, communities and audiences - the Government really get that.

“The Community Radio Order has provided a supportive framework for community radio to bed into the local broadcasting landscape. The changes to relax the rules around commercial revenue and allow for a further five-year licence renewal will be particularly welcome by sector. I hope the changes will also trigger the sector to grow and fulfill it's potential working with Government."

Under the current rules in the Community Radio Order 2004, most community radio stations can only raise 50 per cent of their income from commercial sources, with 19 stations not allowed to make any money from advertising at all as they compete in the same market as small commercial radio stations.

The Government is making these changes following a public consultation last year. Those community radio stations operating in areas covered by small independently operated commercial stations will only be allowed to raise any further income above new the £15,000 limit where the commercial station has taken advantage of the Digital Economy Act to share premises. However, some protections will remain to safeguard independently owned commercial stations in smaller markets.

Martyn Haynes, director at 101.8 WCR FM in Wolverhampton, said:

“As a community radio station run entirely by volunteers, we welcome the funding changes that will allow us to continue broadcasting across the airwaves of Wolverhampton. Over the years our profile in the city has grown and we look forward to a more stable footing as we continue to provide a wide range of music and speech output as well as delivering training and work experience.”

Shirley Ludford, station manager and trainer at Swindon 105.5 community radio station, said:

“I am delighted at this news, which will enable me and the team to spend more time on the delivery of our service and less on fundraising and grant applications. This change will allow us greater freedom to be creative in developing the station and securing its future. It’s great news to start the year after ending it with a Queens Award for our service to the town.”

The Government has also announced that it will provide Ofcom the power to extend licences for community radio for a third term, for a period up to five years, where it is satisfied the community radio station continues to meet current licencing conditions. The changes will give further stability to the sector and allow the early pioneer stations launched before 2008 to continue to support their communities up to the early 2020s.

On gov.uk you can read the full Community Radio Consultation Report Government Response.

More information

Community Media Association
Building communities and empowering individuals using participatory media
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Comments

2 years, 10 months ago

It's seems a positive spin for a so-so result. It will be interesting to see comments from the community stations.

2 years, 10 months ago

I don't think it will affect us very much at Cambridge 105 one way or the other - and I really don't understand the hysterical response from the RadioCentre on behalf of the commercial sector. If any community radio station can seriously threaten any commercial station then that station probably needs putting down anyway!

2 years, 10 months ago

Though I welcome this news and it's a definite step in the right direction, I don't think it really goes far enough to help sustain struggling UK community radio stations long term.

2 years, 9 months ago

The Radio Centre's response "hysterical"? It's pretty much as I'd expect, after all they wouldn't want to celebrate the chance of more competition for income to their members businesses.
I've pondered this and the likely impact on commercial radio incomes
on my blog

I'm looking for a list of Community Radio stations who currently have 'no advertising' restrictions and can't find one. Even the Ofcom site doesn't appear to list them. I can find a breakdown of Commercial Radio licences MCA's, and therefore can see what areas restrictions would apply, but no matching list of community radio licences which overlap.

James C - you don't happen to have such a thing in one of your many 'sources' you have in the directory database? Anyone else have any pointers, or am I down to 'guesswork'?

2 years, 9 months ago

Alive FM in Dumfries, due to the TSA size of Westsound FM.
Brick FM in St Boswells, TD1 in Galashiels due to the TSA size of Radio Radio Borders.

PRO2 years, 9 months ago

I believe AHBS in Ashford has a similar restriction due to the TSA of kmfm Ashford.

2 years, 9 months ago

IWell, Hysterical is perhaps a slight exaggeration but then so are the radio centres concerns as you have highlighted in your blog Phil!

Actually over 50% of our advertisers are new advertisers on radio and wouldn't, at this stage in their development , want to, or think of, advertising on one of the bigger commercial stations as often they don't want business from outside their local area or just can't afford the higher ad costs. So you could argue that yes CR is expanding the pie and introducing new clients into the habit of advertising on the radio. BUT actually my station struggles to fill all our allowed advertising slots as it is - you might find the 27th Jan Radio Today podcast interesting where Trevor Dann interviews one of my fellow directors about the finance of the station and the problems with filling advertising space on Cambridge 105.

2 years, 9 months ago

Glyn. I've seen that one, that's were I've got a list of MCAs for stations. However it only gives the commercial radio licence overlaps. It does list MCA for community stations, but doesn't go into detail of overlaps in fact the documents apparent 'total combined' MCA for all community stations of 9.3million over 15 year olds is wrong, as it doesn't take into account overlaps between community stations (which there is significant amounts of in conurbations such as Manchester and London).

2 years, 9 months ago

Phil have you tried asking the CMA if they have a list?

2 years, 9 months ago

Phil - Good point on the overlaps. In addition though the Ofcom MCA populations are based on the 2001 census, and as your local UKIP member will probably tell you, the population may have increased a bit since then, especially in some areas!
http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/mro/news-release/census-shows-increase-in-population-in-the-east-of-england/censuseastenglandnr0712.html

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