Getting the Green Light- A Look at Getting a Community Radio Licence

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Ofcom has just announced that it is going to grant 4 new licences to stations in Devon and Cornwall. CHBN will cater for the Truro audience, Penwith Radio for the Penzance community, Redruth Radio for Redruth and the surrounding villages, and Totnes FM will service Totnes.  (For more information about these stations see the Ofcom news realease).

Licence applications are granted by the broadcasting regulator on a region by region basis and the current round of announcements is for the south-west of England and Wales.

This announcement follows news in April that Ofcom would be granting a licence to a mainly Welsh language station- Radio Beca as well as to 11 other stations.

When this announcement came out, it lead us at Community RA+Edio to ask the question… how do you get a community radio licence? What is involved in taking a radio station from an idea to a stage where it has the right to broadcast?

To start with you have to wait until it’s your regions round to apply to Ofcom for a broadcasting licence. (Click here and scroll down to find out the latest timetable for regional applications) and then it’s a case of filling in the application form. This may take some time, and you have to fully cover information such as the type of programming you expect to be putting out and how it targets your community, how your community will benefit socially because of the station, as well as the details about its management and operation. There is a lot to be considered when filling in the application form and the best place for comprehensive support in filling it in is naturally from Ofcom themselves.

But before you get into the intricate details there are some more general pointers you might want to follow. Community RA+Edio decided to ask Ofcom about what makes a successful licence application, and Soo Williams from the broadcasting regulator told us what her advice would be.

1)      KNOW YOUR COMMUNITY: “Applicants should be approaching this project from the bottom up.  That is identifying and understanding who the target community is and what it wants, rather than a top down approach of deciding what you want to do and hoping you’ll attract interest.  Usually you will know your target community from working within it, perhaps in a third sector or voluntary organisation, or by involving the target community in a radio station aimed at them (e.g. an internet service, or via temporary radio licences (RSLs)).”

2)      BE REALISTIC: “It is remarkable how optimistic people are about how much funding they are likely to attract and also about what they are likely to achieve.  It’s great being optimistic, but there are reasons why too much optimism can be dangerous!  Try to be realistic about expenditure and potential funding, and think about contingencies – if you don’t get that big grant you want from Big Lottery how can you cut back?

“Many applicants over-promise what they expect to deliver.  When a service is operation 24/7 for 5 years, you need to build this into your plans.  The initial enthusiasm from some volunteers, for example, may be difficult to maintain day in day out.  This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to achieve lots of the things you hope for, but plan over the year and expect to adapt to circumstances as they arise.  We don’t give licences to the applicants that promise the most (the most volunteers, the most training opportunities etc), we take into account how well an applicant has planned its service and the likelihood of if being able to deliver on the promises it makes.  This will vary from applicant to applicant – for example, in a rural area with a low population fewer volunteers will be available than in a more heavily populated place.”

3)      DO YOUR RESEARCH: “The requirements in the community radio legislation are fairly complex – make sure you know what they are…. Your application will be judged against these, so make sure you understand them and that your application satisfies them” All the information about these criteria can be found by clicking here.

4)      LEARN FROM OTHERS:  “There are plenty of stations out there, speak to them, visit them, make contact with the CMA (the Community Media Association), student or hospital radio bodies, or anyone from whom you can learn.”

So following on from this tip, we thought we’d talk to some of these other stations that have been granted their licences in the most recent round of applications.

AIR, (All Inclusive Radio)is a station in Weymouth that is student run, operating from Westfield Art College. They have just been granted an FM licence and told us that it “makes our station more inclusive and accessible to a larger audience….. FM status will allow us to potentially broadcast to over 60,000 people.” At AIR their main focus is the young generation of Weymouth as well as their parents, and staff at the local schools and it is this clear focus that helped them with their application. Carl Greenham, who was involved in preparing the application, said that “we’re lucky we know where we want to go and have vision, direction and the determination to achieve it.” The other key advice he gave was that “You need to prove that you can sustain the broadcasting commitment.”

Tone FM have just been given the go-ahead for their station which is targeted towards the over 45’s in and around Taunton. Darren Cullum from the station said that “the application process is not something you can rush through!”. For Tone FM, the need for local community service was a market gap that they decided to show they could fill when writing their applicaton:

“Taunton used have an extremely popular local radio station which has now been re-branded. This is the case over much of the country so there is definitely room for more ‘local’ output on the radio. As part of my application I provided the results of an online local survey which suggested that Taunton needed its own identity.”

But Ofcom licence applications are as much for improving thebroadcasting situation for a station  as for creating new stations.

Radio Glan Clywd which is a hospital station in North Wales told us that their new licence means they will be able to run more power- effectively, area of wards which could not get a strong signal before could see an improvement. The station has been running for 36 years and its programming identity focuses on the local:  “Our station has become well known for its local interviews and we have always get local people involved. Charities, MP’s and AM’s have always been involved with us and this will not change.”

So how do we answer the question posed earlier: “how do you get a community radio licence?” Well after assessing the feedback we had for this question, the point that seems to stand out is (and this might sound obvious) COMMUNITY! The details of the process might involve a lot of working through but the first and foremost principle seems to be knowing your community, what they want, and how you can serve them year upon year.

Have you applied for a community radio licence? Do you have any recipes for success or words of wisdom about the application process? Let us know what you think and don’t forget to  and tweet us your ideas….

And a bit of extra information for you…..

Currently prospective community radio stations for Northern Ireland can apply for a licence. Applications are expected to close in June 2012.


1 thought on “Getting the Green Light- A Look at Getting a Community Radio Licence

  1. Pingback: News Roundup- 10th April | CommunityrA+Edio

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