Community radio has grown bigger than many people expected. When the first stations were licensed, in the middle of the last decade, the consensus was that broadcast radio would quickly be replaced by digital, which sounds better. But the number of AM and FM community stations has steadily crept up.
Curiously, TNT set out to discover the reasons why the stations – particularly those in Manchester – have mushroomed across the city over the past decade.
The language of radio has always been about music. However that eventually became somewhat repetitive, which paved way to the call and response method; from requests, to phone-ins and shout-outs. Now the growth of internet radio over the last two decades has increasingly meant a multi-platform and far better means of distributing radio.
Project Manager at British Muslim Heritage Centre (BMHC), Ashraf Ali, told TNT that The Heritage Radio has attained its community radio license from Ofcom, the media regulator. “We require a total of £80,000 to build our own studio. We are halfway through; the rest of the funds still need to be raised but the radio has to be launched by June 2016”.
Although run by Muslims, the station pledges to be all-inclusive of all faiths and backgrounds on its programs. Ahead of further fundraising campaigns, the station will be installing their antenna on the BMHC site.
“We will obviously have Islamic programs like Muslim scientific inventions and Q&A sessions on the station but Heritage Radio will actually be community first then Islamic, as opposed to the other way round”, Mr Ali said.
When it comes to constraints, there is no greater challenge for community radio than funding because of the weakness of the advertising market. Whilst the community has been generous in donating funds, like in Ramadhan (the sacred Islamic month that inspires Muslims to give in charity), the station has faced challenges when put beside emergency-campaigns.
“When the public have a choice between donating to a radio station and an orphan or refugee crisis, the priority for the community usually is the urgent humanitarian cause. However we are grateful that generally the Muslim community is generous and also sees the importance of the station”, Mr Ali concluded.
The problem for the donors, however, is ensuring community radios are financially sustainable without commercial pressures changing their public service aims, and compromising their capacity to be a voice for the community – which, arguably, is the chief purpose of community radio.
TNT Business Yasin Chinembiri