Thursday, 1 December 2011

Re: [creative-radio] UK: Ofcom publishes Community Radio Report 2010-11


Dear Salvatore,

thank you for sending through the executive summary.

I am currently on vacation so dont have ready access to Australian figures but I would like to make some general observations based on the material you sent through.

1.5 The legislation also requires that Ofcom sets licence conditions limiting the amount of income that individual stations can generate from on-air advertising and sponsorship. For the majority of stations this limit is 50%. However, two stations have lower limits (25% and 10%) and a further 18 stations cannot take income from on-air advertising and sponsorship at all. These additional restrictions have been put in place to protect existing small commercial services whose coverage areas overlap with the community services.

This is the most disturbing point in the report. Not for profit organisations (as the report classes CRs as) should never be seen as a 'threat' that the commercial operators need "protection" from. If this logic was carried over to other not for profits then hospitals, schools, recycled clothing stores and many other communicty services run by not for profit foundations or organisations would have to cease income generating operations as many of them perform services along side commercial operators.

I do hope the various CR organistions are making lots of noise about this restriction.

Furthermore, this seems to contradict not only the OFCOM's stated recognition of CR as not for profit but to also limit the ability of these stations to "deliver community benefits, known as 'social gain'" to the communities they serve. Could this be a 'restriction on trade' as its known here in Australia and therefore be challengable in the courts?

1.15 Public sources of funding accounted for 25% of the total sector income. Local authorities accounted for around 13% of the sector's total income. 8% of income came from other public bodies such as the Arts Council, health providers, educational establishments and various national lottery award schemes.

In Australia CR's income is roughly 30%, 30%, 30% - 30% self funded (memberships, fundraising drives and so on), 30% from funding sources such as government grants and about 30% sponsorship.

Some stations are more skewed to one of these sources than the other but across the whole sector this has been the trend for many years. Meltropolitan stations tend to rely less on grants (overall) and more on fund raising and sponsorship and memberships while regional / rural stations tend to have less (if any paid staff) and have a higher reliance on grants. As I said, these are general comments and there are (as always) exceptions to this.

1.16 The Community Radio Fund, which is administered by Ofcom on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, accounted for £321,500 (around 3% of the sector's total reported income). The Community Radio Fund continues to be the largest single source of income for the sector.

In Australia the Community Broadcasting Foundation (CBF) administers federal funding grants. The bulk of these are for indigenous and ethnic language services.

Over the last few years there has been funding for metropolitan wide stations to go digital. Sub metro (in other words low power) and regional / rural stations cannot access these grants.

The CBF administers small grants which can be for training, equipment upgrades, administration costs and sundry expenses that may be 'out of the ordinary'. They do not seek funds from philanthropic bodies.

1.21 Community radio stations broadcast live for around 82 hours per week on average, and, in general, broadcast a further 12 hours per week of original pre-recorded material. On average around 32% of daytime output is speech which can feature a wide range of local organisations and community initiatives.

This equates to about 12 hours a day of 'live to air' programming which is on par with our sector. I am not sure what the "12 hours per week of original pre-recorded material" refers to so I cant compare that.

The 32% of spoken word content is interesting. Does this take into account all spoken word (ie news, sponsorship scripts, sports commentary and so on) or is it material that could be classed as 'editorial'. In other words, is it substantial commentary on social, political and other civil society concerns?

If it is the latter, then I and very impressed. I dont think we have any stats in Australia that would reveal 'spoken word content'.

1.23 The average station reports the involvement of around 78 volunteers annually, although there is a wide variation. Together these volunteers give on average of around 295 hours a week of their time in total. Time given by volunteers can vary considerably from an hour or two to over 1,000 hours per week.

This is a very impressive stat. I would be interested to know what the demographic breakdown is (M / F, age, income, roles etc).

I look forward to reading the full report at some stage and do encourage you and the rest of the team to keep up the good work in your lobbying and efforts to continuen to build the CR sector in your region

Warm Regards
Shane Elson
Treasurer, AMARC-AP

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