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London, 18 november 2010
Around 11 million people are now able to tune into community radio
stations across the UK. This figure is up 17% year-on-year and an
increase of more than a third (36%) since 2008, according to a new
report by Ofcom.
The Community Radio Annual Report provides a snapshot of community radio
in the UK, which reveals a flourishing sector. Since the first station
went live five years ago, a new community radio station has launched, on
average, every 10 days. Today, a record 181 community stations are
broadcasting and another 30 are preparing to take to the airwaves.
Community radio stations typically cover a small geographical area with
a coverage radius of up to 5km and are run on a not-for-profit basis.
They serve a wide range of communities, targeting diverse audiences from
rural to inner city areas with content ranging from community news and
information to religious issues to experimental music and RnB, for example.
Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: “The Community Radio Annual
Report provides an encouraging picture of the state of community radio
in the UK. In general, it’s been a challenging few years for the radio
sector. Community radio has shared these challenges. Despite this, it
continues to deliver local content and other community benefits. It is a
genuine success story, and a great credit to the thousands of volunteers
and enthusiasts that make it happen.”
2 million hours of volunteering
All stations involve volunteers in various jobs, including as
presenters. The average station reports the involvement of around 75
volunteers over a year. Across the industry more than 40,000 volunteer
hours are spent each week producing more than 15,000 hours of original
radio output. Ofcom estimates that, with over 180 stations on air,
volunteers currently contribute more than 2 million hours per year to
Chris Jones from Harborough FM in Market Harborough said: “One of the
most satisfying achievements is watching people who initially came to us
with little or no broadcasting experience being transformed into very
competent community radio broadcasters.”
A large number of community radio stations provide services for minority
For example, Diverse FM in Luton broadcasts in community languages such
as Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Pahari, Polish, Arabic, Swahili and
Ashuk Ahmed at Diverse FM said: “Communities are offered radio slots to
broadcast dedicated programmes, enabling them to ‘have a voice’ by
raising issues that are relevant to them and promote better
understanding of each other’s culture, religion and issues … this has
brought about better community cohesion, enabling celebration of
cultural diversity and understanding.”
Several stations also provide services for rural communities, such as
Tempo FM in Wetherby (West Yorkshire). “The station provides a much
appreciated “Voice for Wetherby” to the considerable benefit of the
community, on a very limited budget,” said Stuart Robinson from Tempo
FM. “Creating a new focus for the area through the medium of radio, by
linking the various communities within the associated towns has been a
In addition to providing unique content, community radio stations
deliver wide benefits to people in the areas in which they broadcast.
This includes offering training and work experience opportunities,
contributions to local education and providing a voice to those, such as
older people or speakers of minority languages, who may find it harder
to access the media.
Rob Green from Halton Community Radio in Runcorn (Cheshire) said: “Our
station reaches parts of the community that other stations and community
groups cannot reach; for example the house-bound and severely disabled.
Without the station they would not be able to participate in local
discussions and debate. This was the main aim of the station and we are
proud that we have managed to achieve this.”
shmuFM in Aberdeen has worked with a range of partners to create a
full-time training programme for prison inmates including the production
of programmes for broadcast on the community radio station. Murray
Dawson from shmuFM said: “The scheme has provided encouragement,
motivation and support to prisoners who continue to develop their
skills, post release, which has contributed towards a break in their
cycle of re-offending.”
1.1 Community radio stations are not-for-profit radio services designed
to operate on a small scale and to deliver community benefits, known as
'social gain', to one or more communities. The legislation enabling
community radio services to be licensed was introduced in 2004 and
amended in January 2010. The first community radio station launched in
November 2005. This is Ofcom's third annual report on the community
1.2 Ofcom has to date licensed 228 stations over two rounds of
licensing. 181 of these are broadcasting and a further 17 have either
decided not to launch or have handed their licence back, largely to due
to funding problems. The remainder are preparing to start broadcasting.
The second round of licensing has now concluded and Ofcom is currently
considering whether there will be a third round of community radio
1.3 Community radio serves a diverse range of communities. The majority
of stations licensed serve a general audience in either an
urban/suburban area (17%) or a town/rural area (43%). Many services,
however, serve smaller communities of interest. This includes, for
example, those aimed at minority ethnic groups (14%), a youth audience
(11%) and religious groups (7%). Of the licences awarded, 184 are in
England, 14 in Northern Ireland, 20 in Scotland and 10 in Wales.
1.4 The legislation governing community radio sets out the
characteristics of community radio services and defines social gain.
Each station has a set of 'key commitments', which forms part of its
licence and sets out how it will meet these characteristics and deliver
social gain. It includes how a station will make itself accountable to
its target community and ensure access, its programming aims and its
commitments in respect of training and other social gain objectives.
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 17 stations cannot take income from on-air advertising and
sponsorship at all. These additional restrictions have been put in place
to protect existing smaller commercial services whose coverage areas
overlap with the community services.
1.6 Each station that has been broadcasting for more than a year is
required to complete an annual report. The reports detail how each
station has performed against its key commitments and identifies its
sources of income and expenditure. The financial aspect of the reporting
enables Ofcom to check whether the station has stayed within the
legislative restrictions on funding.
1.7 For the period April 2009 to March 2010 Ofcom received key
commitments annual reports from 128 stations and financial annual
reports from 125 stations. Two stations were excused from providing
financial reports and one station did not provide its financial report
in time to be included in this report. One station did not submit either
its key commitments or financial reports.
1.8 Annual reports were not required from stations that launched during
this period or subsequently and are therefore not included in this report.
1.9 In 2009/10 the average (mean) station's income was around £74,500.
The median figure, the mid-point in the distribution of station's
income, was considerably lower at £44,500. This is because a small
number of stations are earning significantly more than the majority.
1.10 The total reported income of the four highest earning stations,
each reporting over £250,000 income for the reporting period and earning
a total of just over £1.6m, equates roughly to the total income of the
66 lowest income stations. If we exclude the four highest earning
stations' income then the average income drops to £62,000. The median
figure remains relatively similar at £42,000.
1.11 Stations targeting a community of interest (rather than a
geographic community) reported a higher income than the sector average.
For example, services targeting minority ethnic communities had an
average income of £80,000. Stations serving a general audience in an
urban area reported a higher average income than town/rural stations
(£83,000 as opposed to £56,500).
1.12 The average (mean) sector income is down by around 6% on the
previous year's reported figures. In the 2008/09 period income had
dropped by almost 20% compared to the period prior to this. The median
income for this reporting period has dropped by 11% compared to the
1.13 When compared to previous years, the proportion of income from
specified sources to any significant extent appears similar. The most
significant type of income for the sector is grant funding which
accounts for 35% of the total. Income from on-air advertising or
sponsorship accounted for around 22% of total income across the sector.
Thirty stations (24% of those from which we had financial returns) had
no income from advertising and sponsorship. Of these, 19 stations chose
not to take this type of income as a matter of choice or policy. The
remaining 11 stations were prohibited under their licence from doing so.
1.14 Public sources of funding accounted for 37% of the total sector
income. Local authorities accounted for around 8% of the sector's total
income. 25% of income came from other public bodies such as the Arts
Council, health providers, educational establishments and various
national lottery award schemes.
1.15 The Community Radio Fund, which is administered by Ofcom on behalf
of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, accounted for £348,000
(around 4% of the sector's total reported income). The Community Radio
Fund continues to be the largest single source of income for the sector
although a small number of individual funders made grants or entered
into service level agreements (SLAs) - negotiated agreements between two
parties where one is the customer (e.g. the local council) and the other
is the service provider (the station) - of more than £100,000 in the
year under review.
1.16 Community radio stations, on average, are spending roughly the same
as their income. Stations cost, on average, around £74,500 to run. This
has declined by 8% compared to the previous reporting period. The median
expenditure for this reporting period has remained stable compared to
the 2008/09 period.
1.17 The highest cost for community radio stations remains staff
expenditure, which accounted for almost 50% of stations' costs. Premises
and technical costs, as in previous years, account for the next most
1.18 Individual circumstances range from a surplus of £83,000, to a
deficit of £158,000. Almost 50% of stations that returned a financial
annual report were in deficit. Of these 59 stations in deficit, 21%
reported this to be in excess of £10,000. In most cases, large deficits
are being funded by parent organisations; any surpluses are typically
invested in the operation of the service.
1.19 Community radio stations broadcast live for around 80 hours per
week on average, and, in general, broadcast a further 10 hours per week
of original pre-recorded material. On average around 31% of daytime
output is speech and this can feature a wide range of local
organisations and community initiatives.
1.20 Some stations focus on particular genres of music, while those
serving a geographic audience generally broadcast more mainstream music
during daytime programming, often moving to specialist output in the
1.21 The average station reports the involvement of around 75 volunteers
although there is a wide variation - from 1 to over 300. Together these
volunteers give on average of around 213 hours a week of their time in
1.22 At a cost of under £10 million pounds, based on the reports
received from stations in this reporting period community radio in the
* A total of almost 10,000 volunteering opportunities
* Over 25,000 volunteer hours each week
* Over 10,000 hours of original radio output each week
* Output broadcast in a wide range of community languages
1.23 There are now over 180 stations broadcasting and Ofcom estimates
that volunteers contribute close to 170,000 hours a month or over two
million hours per year to community radio.
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