Agenda for the future of Community Radio / Media

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.

Funding

Grants

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.

Legislation

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

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.

Music Royalties

Community Radio

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.

Local DAB

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 martin@martinsteers.co.uk

Digital Radio Stakeholders’ Event November 2017

My brief thoughts and notes from the Digital Radio Stakeholders’ Event

Thursday 9th November hosted by the BBC

This is the quarterly meeting about digital radio, hosted by DR UK (Digital Radio UK), we hear about how digital radio is getting on, thoughts and feelings for the future etc.

Rajar

This was lead by Yvette Dore – DRUK

This last quarter saw a large DAB increase, there was a stall with DTV and internet listening, if not it would have hit over 50% of listening, there is a prediction that within the next 2 quarters we will hit 50% of digital listening.

In the 10 – 64 demographic its already at 51.6% but the over 65’s its around 40%.

31% in car, which is a growth of 26% year on year

87.5% new cars have DAB as standard

14.1 million devices have DAB+

SSDAB

This was lead by Ian O’Neill – DCMS

We are still due a short consultation, it will be a short window (6 weeks), the consultation is still being finalised but is due  out very soon.

The current trials might need to be extended past May.

SSDAB – Panel Discussion

With representatives from 7 of the trial mux operators.

143 estimated services of SSDAB, 94+ on DAB+ and numbers of services still growing.

Discussion on the panel about thoughts going forward for SSDAB

a) lets stop calling it SSDAB (small scale) as it sounds inferior to traditional DAB. Instead lets use ‘Local DAB’  as its for local audiences and communities, as opposed to the National DAB and what is actually County / Regional traditional local DAB. – My personal take away is this is a great idea, I certainly love the idea of local DAB and will adopt it!

b) General call for not for profit ownership, single ownership. (Maybe single ownership with profit, but if a multi ownership model than must be not for profit)

c) Need equivalence of signal strength, coverage inside houses can be a little patchy, need to be able to cover entire area of town / city / area as needed.

d) good mix of commercial stations and community radio (Ofcom CR licenses and digital only not for profit stations)

e) Length of license, so mux operators can plan for sustainability they need long license, suggested 12 years like commercial operator licenses.