The biggest struggle for any community radio station is finding and sustaining funding needed to operate.
One go-to source of funding is The Community Radio Fund. With the deadline for the first round of 2012/13 growing near, we thought we would have a detailed look at how it works, and where exactly that money has been going.
What is the fund?
Money is given by the department of Culture, Media and Sports to Ofcom, to delegate to Community Radio Stations around the UK. The idea is that the government recognise the difficulties in raising money to cover ‘core costs’ that come with operating stations of this nature.
There is a maximum of £500,000 per year has tasked Ofcom with delegating the fund, guaranteed until 2014/15. This is spread over 2 grant cycles, with a station expected to only apply for one in a year.
How much can be applied for?
There isn’t a limit, but we’ve worked out the average pay-out for the 2011/12 cycle was £14,133.
Who can apply?
Any community radio station operating with a community radio lisence- so not an RSL! These stations must be not for profit, and be actively seeking to involve their target communities in their work.
For an application form, and for further information, click here.
The deadline for this cycle is 11th May 2012 at 5PM.
A closer look…
The main goal of community radio is to reach out to the local communities and boost the profile of the area and its events. With this in mind, the map below was created to show the average grant amounts given to stations in each geographical region 2005-Present.
It is strongly recommended that you view the full interactive version of the map. It includes a full list of all stations to have received a grant and the amounts they were awarded.
It is evident that the North West has received the most by average, with £17,249 per grant, and 13.37% of the entire money delegated.
Meanwhile Northern Ireland has had the least funding, 7.21%, with an average grant of £12,840.90.
The bar chart below shows the average grant per region in a more comparable sense.
One aim of this research was to find out whether this funding was reaching everybody that it should be, respective of its limits. ‘Access’ is a key concept in community radio, and something it seems is being neglected by those delegating the fund.
In comparing population sizes of each region to the average proportion of money these areas were receiving from the government fund, it becomes clear many are not being given representative help.
When considering the difference in proportional representation, some of the most under-represented areas are Northern Ireland, London and the South East. Other stations are receiving far more money per person in the region, such as Scotland and the North West.
Community radio stations exist under their licenses to serve the local community and to connect with it. A larger population will self-evidently require the appropriate funding to reach out to more people. If money is being disproportionately distributed, and isn’t representing the populations it is meant to serve, something appears to be going very wrong.
As a key source of funding for these radio stations, the government appears to be going against the principle of ‘access’ under which they were set up in the first place. This is a large concern for the huge community of volunteers who work to sustain these stations.
After publishing this post, Kevin Carey, Chair of the Community Radio Fund Panel, put forward a response to our findings which you can read below:
“As Chair of the Community Radio Fund Panel, I wish to reply to Lucy Clifford Palmer’s posting on the Fund:
We take enormous care when considering which stations should receive grants from the Community Radio Fund. The fund was set up to support core staff costs at community radio stations and we operate under the terms of an agreement with the Department for Culture Media and Sport. As happens with other bodies that give grants, we take into account a complex set of factors. The care we take involves more than just dividing up the available funding on a geographical per capita basis.
Access is certainly an important part of community radio, however the key aim of the Community Radio Fund is to support posts that help ensure stations are sustainable in the future – so the whole community continues to benefit. For example, by employing a fundraiser, this leaves others free to carry out crucial day to day work such as managing volunteers, community outreach and training.
The reason for the apparent anomaly of the North-West receiving higher than average sums comes from the Panel agreeing to make grants to a number of stations there that headed up ‘consortia’ applications. This is where one station has applied for a grant that would benefit stations across the region, or indeed the whole sector. For example, one grant was for supporting a ‘Community Radio Toolkit’ – to the benefit of all stations.
Chair, Community Radio Fund Panel”
What do you think about The Community Radio Fund? Has it been a great help to your station? Do you agree with our findings? As always, we want to hear from you. Comment on this post or Follow @communityraedio
All of the data in this article has been sourced from Ofcom, and can be found here.