Community radio – give it a try!

Third Sector, 27 January 2009

Get your message across with a fast-growing medium, says Ofcom’s Damian Radcliffe

Many news outlets – whether commercial radio, TV or the local press – are suffering declining advertising income and increased competition. But community radio is growing quickly.

Since the first permanent station was licensed in November 2005, Ofcom has granted new licences to 187 different groups, all of them not-for-profit and driven by demonstrable social purposes with business plans that ensure their
audiences help to run them.

These stations are run by the people for the people. In some cases they offer a small, geographically focused service, such as Forest of Dean Radio; in others, one aimed at a specific minority, such as Glasgow’s Asian station, Awaz FM.

For charities, community radio stations offer a number of benefits. The most obvious is that they have small but dedicated audiences. If you need to target a group that mainstream media overlook or cater for only in moderation, stations such as Gaydio – aimed at the gay and lesbian community in Manchester – can bridge the gap.

These stations have as much airtime to fill – but fewer resources to draw on – as their commercial or BBC counterparts; so your interview will probably last longer than it would elsewhere, giving you more time to promote yourself and the chance to explore issues in more depth.

Because community stations broadcast to small target audiences, they are also an ideal training ground for junior spokespeople or staff who’ve just completed media training courses and need to put their skills into action. This isn’t to belittle community radio audiences, but nobody wants to be thrown onto the Today programme without getting a bit of experience first.

Finally, community radio stations’ smaller transmission areas make them perfect for local charities – groups that
might not want to broadcast on a larger regional or national service. If you’re a small community group working in the Wirral, for example, you won’t necessarily want to go on BBC Radio Merseyside, and you might find you’re geographically too niche for Auntie – but you would be perfect for 7 Waves Community Radio.

No media outlet grants you a god-given right to broadcast coverage, so if you have a community radio station in your area, the usual rules apply. Listen to the station first and tailor your approach so that you offer something that works
for both parties. If you can do that, it could be the start of a long and fruitful relationship.

By Damian Radcliffe, Manager for the English Regions, Ofcom.

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One response to “Community radio – give it a try!

  1. Community radio ”provides numerous benefits”
    Posted in News on the January 30th, 2009
    Community radio can be a useful tool for those working in the third sector.
    During a time when many news outlets are suffering from increased competition and falling advertising incomes, community radio is thriving, Damian Radcliffe, manager for the English regions at Ofcom, points out in a ThirdSector.co.uk article.
    “For charities, community radio stations offer a number of benefits. The most obvious is that they have small but dedicated audiences,” he states, which could be of benefit those wishing to improve their skills framework.
    In addition, he points out that because they often broadcast to small target audiences, community stations can be ideal for charities to give media skills experience to their employees.
    Mr Radcliffe reveals that since November 2005, the media regulator has granted new licenses to 187 not-for-profit groups, with such stations “run by the people for the people “.
    Earlier this month, Steve Bowbrick, blogger-in-residence for the BBC, claimed that an overuse of digital marketing and social media by charities may alienate some people.

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