Survey reveals key role of donations in keeping alive Scots community radio stations

DONATIONS to help Scottish community radio stations continue to broadcast are much higher than the UK average, according to a survey conducted by broadcasting regulators, Ofcom.

Says Ofcom, in its annual report on community radio stations, the 18 Scots community radio stations revealed that donations accounted for 39 per cent of income, when the UK average stands at 12 per cent.

Says the report, Ofcom has to date helped establish 231 stations over three rounds of licensing, across the UK, with 196 still broadcasting. Some 250,000 hours of broadcasting per month is generated by the volunteers who overwhelmingly operate the stations.

And the survey also found that, while the UK average for running a community radio station is £64,500, in Scotland, it is higher. Says the report: “Expenditure high. Staff costs more than double the sector average, accounting for 60 per cent of costs (sector average is 50 per cent). Premises and technical costs lower.”

The average is the latest drop over a number of years. In 2007/08, it was £101,000, followed by £81,000 and then £74,500 the year after that.

Applications are currently being invited for the next round of community radio starts.

The Scots community radio stations are The Super Station (Orkney), Speysound, SHMU FM (Aberdeen), Mearns FM, Dunoon Community Radio, Bute FM, Insight Radio (Glasgow), Sunny Govan Radio (Glasgow), Awaz FM (Glasgow), 3TFM (Saltcoats), Pulse FM (Barrhead), Celtic Music AM (Glasgow), Revival FM (Glasgow), 98.5 Garrison FM (Edinburgh), Leith FM (Edinburgh), Black Diamond (Midlothian), Brick FM (St Boswells) and Alive FM (Dumfries).

Among the ‘Achievements – awards and nominations’, responses to the survey included:

Young presenter, Kenny Coyle, received a National Award from the Scottish Arts Council at Adult Learners Week, for his outstanding contribution to Innovation and Creativity in the world of Community Media. 3TFM Community Radio for Health, Saltcoats (Ayrshire)

2010 will be the year we were officially recognised as Winner of the Queens Awards MBE for Voluntary Groups. It was an honour and pleasure for being recognised over the last ten years of the work we have done. We also went through the Qualities Scotland EFQM ‘Committed to Excellence’ program and successfully completed the year-long project and achieved our accreditation. We highlighted three areas of improvement – People, Strategy and Processes. Awaz FM, Central Glasgow

Jesse Rae has been nominated for the Producer, World Radio California USA Awards 2011. Brick FM, St Boswells (Borders)

Celtic Music Radio was nominated in the Trad Music in the Media Award category. Other nominees were BBC Radio Scotland ; STV on their YouTube channel; Horo Gheallaidh (Mac TV) for BBC Alba. This nomination certainly gave the entire Celtic Music Radio team a ‘lift’ and encouragement plus recognition of the service we provide to our community of interest. Celtic Music Radio, Glasgow

One of Insight Radio’s partially sighted volunteers won a Finalist Certificate in the 2010 New York Festivals Award for Best Regularly Scheduled Music Programme. Insight Radio also won a Highly Commended Freesat Award for Station of the Year. Insight Radio, West Glasgow

When it came to ‘Achievments – community interest and engagement’, the responses included:

It is an achievement to get people who are basically reluctant to speak on air to try the experience of expressing themselves and to gain self confidence. Many have learning difficulties and some are handicapped or disabled, but it teaches them how to develop their skills and offers an improvement in their wellbeing. Older people are interviewed and talk about their favourite music and their experiences in life. Youngsters have an opportunity to gain self confidence, and it gives pupils at school work experience and the confidence to communicate and gain skills. Brick FM, St Boswells (Borders)

We were also proud to be able to take ‘Father Christmas’ on a tour of island schools, care homes, community groups and local businesses. At one of our volunteer meetings it was suggested that we have a Santa Claus to spread goodwill to local children. The idea developed into a large project where one volunteer designed and made a unique costume for another volunteer who played ‘Father Christmas’ with great vigour. Two other volunteers took ‘Father Christmas’ on his tour and the feedback that we received from astonished children and adults delighted every one of us and we look forward to doing it again. Bute FM, Rothesay 

Kept the Garrison and local community informed of school closures, road closure, travel problems and events cancelled during the severe snow disruption in December 2010. The station became the focal point for information during the adverse weather with schools and event organisers from within the garrison and local community calling and e-mailing with information. The launch of The Garrison FM book Club. This not only encourages listener interaction but supports the work carried out at the Army Education Centres and local libraries. Edinburgh Garrison FM, Edinburgh

Our links with the business community are developing slowly but surely. We were delighted when the Avenue Shopping Centre renewed sponsorship of our web-streaming service for another year and we have started to attract some smaller-scale (but no less significant) sponsorship from other local businesses. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire)

Revival FM has worked during the past year to establish and maintain relationships with key people and organisations in our community and continues to enjoy their support. Many more people in the community have contributed their time and expertise towards programming and other activities. Revival FM, Glasgow

The organisation has helped to give the community a new sense of confidence and belief in itself. The area has been deprived for generations and has been negatively stereotyped by the traditional media outlets. Sunny Govan Community Radio continues to place high importance on diversity and inclusion through the process of community development. The amount of community groups that have participated continues to excel initial expectations. Sunny Govan Radio, Govan (Glasgow)

Under ‘Achievements – events and outside broadcast’, the following was submitted:

During Celtic Connections 2011 our regular 19 days of coverage at The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was made available across many parts of England and South Wales on DAB digital radio using the ‘Pop Up’ channel facility on the Now Digital local multiplexes. Celtic Music Radio, Glasgow

One of our biggest achievements was broadcasting from the Cowal Highland Gathering, this event, which has a worldwide audience, is held over three days at the end of August. Dunoon Community Radio, Dunoon (Argyll)

Revival FM continues to hold an ongoing programme of event organisation and promotion such as open days, concerts and banquets for fundraising and support for deserving causes. Revival FM, Glasgow

Under ‘Achievements – funding and advertising’, the responses included:

The station has completed four years of broadcasting, and remained financially in the black. Fundraising for training, outdoor broadcast and portable studio equipment achieved. Black Diamond FM, Midlothian

Winning a grant from the Ofcom Community Radio Fund for the employment of a part-time business development manager. This is a significant achievement as this post will help to maximise income to the station, improve relationships with local businesses, and raise the profile of Leith FM. Leith FM, Edinburgh

After putting pressure on the Scottish Parliament with our campaign for the Scottish Community Radio sector to be part of government public message strategy, eg broadcast government public messages, we now sustained advertising in the region of over £7,000 per annum. This includes achieving advertising revenue for other community radio stations throughout Scotland. Sunny Govan Radio, Govan (Glasgow)

Under ‘Achievements – press and publicity’, responses included:

We were featured as one of three projects on The Secret Millionaire which was filmed in April 2010 and transmitted on Channel 4 in November 2010. This was also broadcast in several English speaking countries and provided an insight to a global audience of community radio as a vehicle for social gain objectives. A donation of £15,000 (with Gift Aid the donation amounted to almost £20,000). Community Radio Stations in Scotland were also featured including Sunny Govan Community Radio as part of a documentary on MAC TV (Gaelic spoken TV transmitting throughout Scotland). Sunny Govan Radio, Govan (Glasgow)

Playing our part as an emergency broadcasting service during the bad winter. Black Diamond FM, Midlothian

Under ‘Achievements – programming’, the feedback included:

Producing and broadcasting Edinburgh’s Armed Forces Day live from Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens with live commentary on the parade, interviews with senior army figures, military charities, veterans, politicians and council officials including The Lord Provost of Edinburgh. We also broadcast the events main speeches. All of which was also broadcast on the wider Garrison FM network. Edinburgh Garrison FM, Edinburgh

In a year of considerable global unrest, Insight Radio compiled throughout the year specialist shows highlighting how the media handled such events as the Japanese Tsunami, the Egypt and Libya uprisings and the 75th anniversary of the RNIB’s Talking Books service. These shows made accessible information that was not easily consumed by people with sight loss and brought these historic events to our audience. Insight Radio, West Glasgow

Our non-league football show (Nugent 4-nil) has perfectly captured a ‘niche’ market and now has a big online audience composed of non-league football fans from all over Scotland. Under the Radar has showcased more than 40 local artists this year and the show is now being approached by acts from all over Scotland. Our daily ‘School’s Out’ slot has, over the year, featured more than 50 local pupils delivering live shows. Some of these pupils have since graduated to become regular presenters in their own right. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire)

Demonstrating through our weekly radio programme involving people with high support needs to include learning difficulties continues to be one of our most popular programmes with Glasgow listeners. This is demonstrated in our text connect messages to the station, volume increases from the average eight per hour to over 30 per hour during this weekly, one hour programme. Sunny Govan Radio, Govan (Glasgow)

Under ‘Achievements – projects’, responses included:

We completed our project on Basic Radio Skills (funded by Equalities Unit RRRI Fund – Scottish Government) which was due by end of March 2011. We have been given an extension for year 2011/2012 to continue this great work. Awaz FM, Central Glasgow

Under ‘Achievements – training, workshops and work placements’, responses included:

Negotiated a new service level agreement with North Ayrshire Council to deliver adult learning, youth access to media and literacy, promotion of individual and community capacity building, using media and a community economic development model. 3TFM Community Radio for Health, Saltcoats (Ayrshire)

We were able to recommend and provide references for five long-term work experience youngsters which gave them access to college courses for sound engineers, sound production and journalists. Black Diamond FM, Midlothian

In 2010, Insight Radio has trained 53 predominantly blind and partially sighted people in basic broadcast skills and has employed three future Jobs Fund trainees for six months – two of whom have moved on to further training and employment and one who is currently exploring employment opportunities with the BBC. Having secured funding from Asda this level of training will be able to continue throughout 2011 and 2012. Insight Radio, West Glasgow

Leith FM provides regular placements for radio broadcast students and journalism students within Edinburgh. These students gain valuable on-the-job experience which helps them to find employment. This year, Leith FM established the Leith Academy Students Programme, which involved pupils coming to the station for work experience. Leith FM, Edinburgh

Under ‘Achievements – volunteers and staff’, responses included:

The flow of new volunteers has been encouraging and we are supporting aspects of local events through outside broadcasts, coverage of sports events and significant interviews. Alive Radio, Dumfries

Gullalaii Yousafzai who presents the Pushto program has in the past year become the most accessed of presenters on the website. The top five presenters who have been accessed more on the website are all females. This year we recognised their achievement by acknowledging vote of thanks for their effort. Awaz FM, Central Glasgow

Being able to allow people who may have had the dream of broadcasting for many years, but would never get the opportunity in a commercial radio station and to see how they have grown in skill and confidence. Dunoon Community Radio, Dunoon (Argyll)

A number of volunteers have left Leith FM to move on to full and part-time work or college and university courses. Leith FM is key skills development body within its local community. Service users from other organisations are regularly referred to Leith FM to develop skills and confidence to help enter employment. Running the station 24/7 with a 100 per cent volunteer workforce is a major achievement. Leith FM, Edinburgh

Perhaps the thing we’re most proud of is the amount of time that our volunteers give to the station. We feel that we’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time. We currently have more than one hundred registered volunteers and it is largely their passion and commitment that has driven our success. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire)

Under ‘Achievments – websites, social networking and other IT initiatives’, responses included:

Launch of our online podcast facility funded by the Lottery. 3TFM Community Radio for Health, Saltcoats (Ayrshire)

Under ‘Achievements – general’, responses included:

Alive Radio is now an active free channel on Dumfries and Galloway Infirmary’s hospital media service, run by Hospedia. Hospital presenters and link people are about to be trained to run a hospital show and liaison with the operational staff in the hospital is being developed to enable healthy interactions with the hospital staff, patients and relatives/loved ones. Alive Radio, Dumfries

We are all delighted with the way Pulse has developed over the last two years and there are many things that have made us immensely proud. The fact that we are able to broadcast full-time with so much local content is a source of great satisfaction. Rather than maintain a holding position, the thoughts of the Steering Group are focused on how we can expand the station. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire)

Continuing to develop staff, volunteers, commercial, public and community relationships. Maintaining in resource-scarce times, significant grass-roots relationships within the wider community. The Super Station, Orkney

Under ‘Difficulties – advertising and sponsorship’, responses included:

The financial climate has meant that raising funds has been even more difficult. Income from advertising has also been limited and it is difficult to recruit volunteers to focus on advertising sales. Leith FM, Edinburgh

Under ‘Difficulties – funding and finances’, responses included:

Trying to find and secure funding for the station has also become more difficult, with more people seeking to access the same sources of funding. 3TFM Community Radio for Health, Saltcoats (Ayrshire)

Every organisation has difficulties to attend with and this last year has been in trying to secure funding for positions. Thankfully we were given an extension to this funding (Equalities Unit – Scottish Government). Awaz FM, Central Glasgow

Funding, as with all community radio stations, continues to be difficult in the current economic climate. Advertising and sponsorship will always be the lifeblood of the station as grant funding is increasingly competitive and we have worked on keeping overheads low to combat this. Bute FM, Rothesay

In common with most voluntary projects, one of the biggest challenges for us is how to consistently raise the necessary revenues. We are pro-active and have an energetic volunteer team, but it will probably always be a big issue. We are now aware that our income in winter is not as healthy as it is during the spring and summer months, when we are regularly asked to do roadshows, galas etc. Our finance and fundraising sub-group now has the task of making sure that some income is generated between November and February. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire

Under ‘Difficulties – coverage’, responses included:

The location of our antenna continues to be a problem as we are unable to cover as much of the island as we would like. It is our intention to investigate alternative sites and we will liaise with Ofcom when we do this, in the next reporting period. Bute FM, Rothesay

The very low power level offered with the licence means that the signal reception is patchy even within the licensed area due to topographical reasons. The limited reach has created frustrations for otherwise interested listeners and has negatively impacted on support for the station. For example, listeners in Abronhill, Cumbernauld which is well within the TSA cannot receive a signal while some outside the TSA receive a much better signal. Five years of broadcasting on a community licence have proven that the licence conditions for our location mitigate against the successful development of a truly viable and professional community radio service as envisaged by the regulatory framework. We would recommend a reconsideration of signal power levels particularly taking into account the undulating terrain across the licenced area. Revival FM, Glasgow

Under ‘Difficulties – programming’, responses included:

Our market research suggests that, for some listeners, we have yet to forge a coherent identity. The sheer diversity of our shows means that some listeners find it difficult to stick with the station. Perhaps we are disadvantaged by trying to be all things to all men. We have recently decided to bring a modicum of consistency to our daytime music output by introducing a list of ‘recommended’ tracks that we feel help define the flavour of the station. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire)

Under ‘Difficulties – staff and volunteers’, responses included:

Managing any organisation that operates 24 hours a day has logistical problems. Given that Leith FM is 100 per cent volunteers, it is very difficult to maintain organisational effectiveness and reach the high standards we strive to attain. Leith FM, Edinburgh

Because of the number of volunteers using our premises and the number of broadcast hours, we suffer a degree of wear and tear on our equipment and furniture. We now have to factor in replacement costs for headphones, cables, microphones etc. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire)

Under ‘Difficulties – volunteer availability and retention’, responses included:

In August 2010, 13 volunteers departed the station, for a variety of reasons, and the fallout from this impacted somewhat on the service. Bute FM, Rothesay

As it grows in popularity and in the demand for its involvement in the community, Revival FM has faced difficulty with the financial strength of the station particularly given the current economic situation. However, the past year has seen improvements in this area. The failure to achieve significant ongoing grant funding, eg Ofcom’s Community Radio Fund, has limited the opportunities to improve. The economic model contained within the community licence structure makes it extremely difficult to create the required financial planning culture needed for further development of the service eg provision of a professional local news service. Revival FM, Glasgow

Under ‘Difficulties – other issues’, responses included:

The radio station is now into its fifth year. Grants were readily available in the first year and there was probably a naïve assumption by the then Governors that funding would be readily available year on year. This has not been the case. As a result the station has become 100 per cent volunteer-run. This creates a challenge in recruiting and retaining enough volunteers to run the station successfully all day every day. In particular administrative areas have suffered, such as the recording of volunteer involvement and development and the ability to carry out audience research surveys. Leith FM, Edinburgh

The Steering Group is currently debating some issues around how we ‘monetise’ certain activities. For example, we are now being asked by local schools on a regular basis to provide volunteers to help facilitate things like Gala Days, Talent Shows etc. Obviously, as a ‘not-for-profit’ community project, we believe in helping out wherever we can. We want to provide a service and build a network of listeners, friends and supporters in the local community, but – at the same time – we have to pay bills. To what extent should we be thinking of introducing rate for this kind of public appearance /performance? That debate will take place over the next few months. Pulse Community Radio, Barrhead (East Renfrewshire)