More than eight million people are now able to tune into community radio stations and demand is still high for licences, according to Ofcom’s first Annual Report on Community Radio. The industry watchdog hailed Community Radio as a success, claiming that it’s rich content “reflects the variety of cultures, demographics and tastes in the UK”.
In total, 41 per cent of stations are aimed at general audiences in town or rural communities, 18 per cent broadcast to general audiences in urban areas, but a significant proportion target specific groups such as young people (17 per cent), minority ethnic groups (14 per cent) or military communities (5 per cent).
“For example, there are stations catering for urban music fans (New Style, Birmingham) experimental music aficionados (Resonance FM, London) younger people (CSR, Canterbury), the Armed Forces and their families (Edinburgh Garrison FM) and religious communities (Cross Rhythms, Stoke-on-Trent),” the Ofcom report said.
The Community Radio Annual Report also reveals that, on average, each station operates with 74 volunteers who together give around 214 hours of their time a week.
Across the sector this represents over 100,000 volunteer hours a month.
In fulfilling their wider requirements to deliver social gain to their communities, each station also provides training and accessibility.
For example, in the year to April 2008 Bang Radio, broadcasting in west London, delivered broadcast training to over 230 young people, and continues to offer further work placements to local school and college pupils.
Similarly, Wolverhampton’s WCR Radio provided accredited training to 49 of its 190 volunteers – 44 of whom now hold a qualification in radio production.
Overall, there are currently more than 130 community stations now broadcasting across the UK, with another 50 preparing to launch.
These not-for-profit radio stations cover small geographical areas and each typically provides 81 hours of original and distinctive output a week – mostly locally produced.
“Army audiences and their families, as well as civilians who live in the local area really value our output,” said Mark Page, who produces programming for a number of Army stations.
“Listeners of Community Radio with a military focus regularly hear from our boys and girls deployed in war zones – it is such a great feeling to know our programming gives such comfort to those who tune in and that it also provides real links with those outside bases.”
Community radio licensing was introduced by Ofcom and the first licence was awarded in March 2005.