New Community Radio Award

Staff and volunteers from community radio stations around the UK gathered in Manchester at the weekend for the 2007 Community FM Conference. International development activist Zane Ibrahim announced the foundation of a major award scheme to recognise excellence in community broadcasting.

Ibrahim, often described as the founder of community radio in Africa, used his speech to announce a scheme that will bear his name — both as a way to promote excellence in the sector and as an alternative to existing radio awards.

About a hundred UK community radio staff and volunteers gathered at the two day event, where they also heard from Cabinet Minister Hazel Blears MP and the Deputy Chairman of the broadcast regulator (Ofcom), Philip Graf. Ms Blears got enthusiastic applause for her clear commitment to promote the cause of community radio within Government as well as her clear understanding of what the sector delivers to disadvantaged communities. Mr Graf was also warmly welcomed — for stating that community radio was not an annexe to Ofcom’s work and that they were proud that it was thriving.

Ibrahim started his speech by alerting delegates to the power of community radio — its dangers in the wrong hands exemplified by is use in the Rwandan genocide, and its benefits illustrated by the way Bush Radio preserves the safety of women and children in Cape Town.

He continued: "Conversations in the community are essential to our future. As a global community we face so many challenges in the coming decades that the only way we can attempt to solve our problems is through discussion. That means discussion and debate at a local level,often in a local language. Community means a shared responsibility for our past, our present and, more importantly, our future. For me,successful community radio is still 90% community and10% radio."

The award will be given to the community broadcaster that has shown excellence in their practice, a commitment to teamwork as well as having overcome barriers to achieve their work. It will be firstawarded at Community FM 2008 and annually thereafter. The recipient will then be supported in their work financially and by the offer of a substantial scholarship to a leading educational institution. The winner will be a young person chosen by a panel of experts, from a community broadcaster anywhere in the world. He was unapologetic about his focus on the young:

"I still get a terrific kick being surprised by the undiscovered young stars we have in Community Radios all across the globe. — from Cape Town to Cancoun, from Mumbai to Manhattan, from Melbourne to Manchester. Secretly, I know these young people have a lot more talent to communicate with their generation than I do. That’s the way it should be. I measure my success as a teacher, as a mentor, by how much further my charges develop that I have.”

Ibrahim will announce the backers of the award and the exact details of the prize as soon as formalities have been finalised. The full text of Ibrahim’s speech and other contributions to the event will soon be available []online[/link].

The conference was hosted by the Manchester-based community development charity Radio Regen and the Community Media Association and sponsored by the North West Development Agency and Manchester College of Arts & Technology (MANCAT).

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