Ofcom is marking the milestone of over 200 community radio stations now broadcasting around the UK, but many have failed.
From the first station in Melton Mowbray, to the latest to be awarded licenses in Kent and Dorset this month, community radio cover a range of areas and interests. But 18 stations have failed to continue broadcasting, mostly after running into financial trouble.
Stations such as Rossendale Radio and XS Wales proved popular but had to close due to unique way most stations are funded – all of which are run not-for-profit.
Ed Richards, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, said: “Community radio is thriving and helping to bring together local communities across the UK. With more than 200 stations on air, community radio is enabling thousands of people to have a voice and help serve the needs of their local area.”
Christine Slomkowska, Managing Director of the first station to launch, 103 The Eye in Mowbray, says “Being a community radio station means 103 The Eye can keep the localness in radio and provide an information and entertainment service for our area which was under-served by other stations.
“Over the last seven years we’ve given a wide range of people the opportunity to produce and present radio programmes, offering training and airtime opportunities which have led to careers in the media and progression within the music industry.”
Kane FM, based in Guildford, was a pirate radio station but applied for a community radio station when new licences became available in the area. It wanted to become a community station so the people involved could start working with disadvantaged groups. Kane FM has an advisory panel consisting of local organisations such as the Police, Surrey County Council, Surrey Arts and Youth Justice.
Simon Foster, Director of Kane FM, said: “Since becoming a community radio station, Kane FM now has 100 independent local musicians and artists creating content and weekly shows, as well as over 130 volunteers.
“We want to turn around those people at the fringes of society and give them new skills and a sense of belonging; to strive forward and achieve for those who may otherwise be dismissed or ignored.”
All community radio stations involve volunteers working in various jobs, including presenters and producers. The average station has over 68 volunteers each year, who in total give more than 1,000 hours of their time a month to these community services. The average station broadcasts 91 hours of original content every week, 84 of which are live. Ofcom estimates that volunteers contribute more than 2 million hours per year to community radio.
Soo Williams, Community Radio Manager at Ofcom, said: “We are now into the third round of community radio licensing and there continues to be strong demand to set up new stations from all corners of the country.”