PRESS RELEASE: 20 July 2009
'Broadcasting success story' at risk
The 20th July marks the fifth anniversary of
the legislation that enabled Community Radio to
start broadcasting. Since then more than 200
community radio services have been licensed and
around 150 are on air, creating around 400 jobs,
involving over 10,000 volunteers, and serving a
potential audience of more than 10 million people.
Ofcom's latest Annual Report hailed community
radio as "one of the great UK broadcasting
success stories of the last few years", but that
success could turn to failure if much needed
Government support is not forthcoming, according
to community radio groups and their supporters.
The Community Radio Fund is described by Steve
Buckley, Director of Sheffield Live! 93.2FM as
".. woefully inadequate" and he's heading a plea
for a fair share of Government funding
arrangements for broadcasting. Buckley says the
new sector is in a precarious situation: "Six
stations have failed to launch, three have handed
back their licences. Others are at high risk.
This is not only a result of the recession but is
a direct consequence of a failure in government policy."
An open letter has been written to the Prime
Minister, Gordon Brown, signed by 82 community
radio leaders, media scholars and experts
including representatives of 60 community radio
stations, in a bid to raise awareness of the
threat to community radio. The Government's own
assessment, in 2003, was that the Community Radio
Fund would need £3-4 million per annum, but only
£500k was provided in the first year of operation
and there has been no further increase, despite
rapid growth in the number of community radio stations.
209radio in Cambridge is one of the operating
stations that have been badly affected by
restrictions on advertising income and
operational delays from Ofcom; its Station
Manager Karl Hartland says: "There's an urgent
need for the community radio sector to be given a
more sustainable economic base, especially in
light of the work we do with communities in a
climate of shrinking public spending. To put it
in context, the money available today through the
Community Radio Fund to help support the
operating costs of 150+ community radio stations
is less than the annual salary of a BBC Radio 1 breakfast DJ."
Despite the plaudits and awards for community
radio, the UK financial settlement compares
poorly with our European neighbouring countries.
France, for example, provides around Euro 25
million per annum for around 600 community
stations. Community radio groups and their
supporters are calling for the government to give
a higher priority to community radio its social
and economic benefit by substantially increasing
the government's contribution to the Community Radio Fund.
For further information contact:
Steve Buckley (Sheffield Live! 93.2 FM)
Office: 0114 2201426 ; Mobile: 07801 945037
Karl Hartland (209radio on 105 FM)
Mobile 07968 898254
1. The letter is available online at
2. The Community Radio Order 2004 came into force
on 20 July 2004. The government is currently
conducting a review of the Order, as part of the
Digital Britain consultation. A public
consultation paper on the Community Radio Order
2004 was published by the Department for Culture,
Media and Sport on 16 June 2009, with a closing date of 16 August.
3. The government has published (also on 16 June
2009, as part of the Digital Britain
consultation) a separate consultation paper on
plans to ringfence 3.5% of the television licence
fee to fund local and regional news and other
essential public service content priorities. This
separate consultation on funding closes 22 September 2009.
4. The Communications Act 2003 provides, in
Section 359, for a Community Radio Fund. In a
regulatory impact assessment paper at the time
the government estimated this would not cost more
than £3-4 million per annum. It commenced in
2005/06 at a level of £500,000 and has not been
increased since. The number of community radio
licences has grown from 14 to over 200.
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