It’s true – community radio stations are popping up like attractive weeds in England and their audiences are growing, according to a new report by Ofcom, the federal communications regulation agency in England.
The report (Community Radio: Annual Report on the Sector) identifies over 130 community radio stations in operation who daily reach an audience of 8 million, with another 50 stations who have licenses but haven’t started broadcasting. That’s almost 200 community radio stations created in less than four years (Ofcom introduced its community radio licensing framework in 2005, issued its first community license March 2005).
Particularly remarkable is the kind of unpaid dedication involved in running a community radio station – it seems Britainers have what it takes. The report documents an average of 74 volunteers at each station who collectively give (approx.) 214 hours of their time weekly. That’s about 100,000 volunteer hours being given at community radio stations across the UK every month. That’s a lot of radio made by the people for the people.
According to the report, most of the stations (41%) broadcast to rural or small town communities, but 18% target urban audiences, and a significant proportion target specific groups such as young people (17%), minority ethnic groups (14%) or military communities (5%).
It also seems that community radio stations, despite recent economic upheavals, are managing to hold the course. Average annual revenues for a station clock in at about £66,500. Income is generated through grants (45%), on-air advertising (18%), donations (12%) and service contracts with local authorities (11%).
This report suggests cause for a celebration, more evidence that mediascapes around the world are being transformed by a growing interest in collaborative culture.
Image (above) from Radio Regen, community radio advocates in Manchester.