This is just an opportunity for me to get on my chest my current thoughts on the issues and areas of development for the sector. (I might use Radio / Media as interchangeable in this piece)
Just my views, and these are not always things I have the answers to, but by working together I feel we can make progress.
As a sector, we need to develop our skills on applying for grants, which can often be seen as a dark art form with secret handshakes. It’s not but it does need skills, experience, and knowledge, not only do we need to upskill the sector but we need to do more to share insight and best practice.
We also need to slowly change the hearts and minds of grant bodies/boards, so they understand more about what community radio is and it’s impact in our communities. Wouldnt it be great if you didn’t need to explain community radio, or more importantly they don’t instantly say NO because its come from a community radio station.
On that note, we need to do more to develop relationships with the big funders, the likes of national lottery etc to get more for the sector.
Community Media Fund
It’s something that’s been talked about for some time, I have certainly been seriously discussing it for a couple of years, but the current DCMS/Ofcom Radio Fund is unfortunately not fit for purpose. We need a few people to come together to launch a community media fund that any group can pitch to for development and project stuff, that includes content, equipment, staff etc. Although I suspect it’s not sustainable to have a fund that just covers core costs alone, something that goes above the current radio fund!
I will be honest, this is an area that I am really considering at the moment, I really welcome peoples thoughts on it.
We need to keep an eye on the moves to the deregulation of commercial radio, as this will impact the community sector as there were questions about that. I suspect they might try and create an obligation towards local news and information, and this needs to be fought, as that does not fit all community radio. I think we also need a considered conversation about what regulation there is community radio, does it work and does it need to change. Most will know I am a firm supporter of the ’50 percent’ rule, but I do think there are things that need changing, like the no advertising at all rule needs to be removed.
Post-2020, we need to start working on making sure legislation is in place for those stations who are due to hit the limit of their license at that point (or thereabouts), also do we need to question the five-year license anyway? Should CR licenses not be for ten years with extensions, do we need to consider the impact of the digital migration (as I refer to it) and what FM will actually look like in ten years time anyway.
Local DAB as I agree I think it should be called going forward (as opposed to SSDAB, see my previous blog about that), is still not here!
We are awaiting the ‘consultation’ that will be short, but we need to make sure it reflects the needs and interests of the sector, we can’t waste this opportunity to safeguard the platform for community good. Now that’s not to exclude commercial operators or partners as I believe that actually by working together between the community and commercial radio we can make local DAB a massive success.
We have to pay for the music we use, I have no issue with that, and it seems the sector has moved more in that direction in the last 18 months than ever before (I haven’t seen anyone claiming free rights for ages! and no that’s not a challenge!). However, I must admit I was recently inspired by an actual rational conversation about challenging the minimum fees and also the percentages. This won’t be an easy battle or easily fought, it will take time and resources that I am not sure the sector has, but I think there is a plan that could be developed to challenge the music royalty bodies for a better deal for community radio.
I started a conversation with PPL / PRS this year I think about Local DAB (after we managed to win the case as part of the joint CR license that came in this Jan), personally I believe this is the next big battle / mission for us, with local DAB not far off (despite what I say above), no doubt the royalty bodies are rubbing their hands together at the thought of a new market to license.
However, we need to challenge them and make sure we have a good deal for local DAB, this won’t just benefit community stations, but also commercial stations on this platform, so it’s with that spirit that I think we need to bring both groups together for a combined approach about how we get the best deal for Local DAB. It’s certainly an issue I am passionate about and I look forward to being there and being part of it.
That will that for now, no doubts there will be more thoughts on the future and updates on certain areas as and when!
Please feel free to comment with your thoughts below or contact me firstname.lastname@example.org