Community Radio – what’s it for ?

For about the last four years I have been broadcasting regularly on community radio.  A frequent question has always been ‘Is anybody listening ?’.  It’s a question many contacts ask – How many listeners do you have ?  bainbridgeBeing on radio creates all sorts of openings – opportunities to meet with a wide range of people and to give a voice to those in our community who are often the ones not heard.

The question of listeners / viewers doesn’t arise in the same way about channels such as Facebook Live.  I did a live video yesterday about a demonstration outside a local school where the crossing patrol / ‘lollipop lady’ has not been replaced since she left in July.  So far, in about eighteen hours, that video has been seen 763 times.  The video I did of the last protest at the same venue had over one and a half thousand views.

So I’m having a bit of a ‘back to basics’ moment.  “What’s it All About, Alfie ?”, as Cilla Black sang back in the sixties.

Basic to my thinking are the views put forward by Cormac Russell in his TED talk   .  The media is full of stories of the indolent poor, who live on ‘Benefits Street’, who use food banks but spend their money (according to Edwina Curry ) on tattoos and dog food, who come from abroad to scrounge from over-generous Britain.  But the days of philanthropists like Carnegie (who gave away about ninety percent of his fortune) are long gone.  The emphasis these days is on helping communities fend for themselves.  We don’t simply look at problems to be solved – we look at strengths to be promoted.  Do-gooders don’t necessarily provide the best help.

The story is told of the attempt to create a new centrepiece in nearby New Bolsover.  Money is being invested in the repair of grade 2 listed buildings and in the building of community pride.  A landscape designer was tasked with producing plans.  When he showed local people his designs, their response was “Why would we need a fountain in the middle of the estate ?  The kids will get wet and it’ll keep everybody awake at night !  Why didn’t you come and talk to us first and get some ideas ?”

So.  Community radio ?  Where am I going with that ?  Now, I have to confess, I don’t listen to radio much.  I have no desire to have ‘sounds of the sixties’ blaring in the background.  I do spend hours crouched over a computer – listening, watching, reading, interacting, learning.  When I talk to local young people they say something similar.  YouTubers are the influencers.  Zoella,  Thatcher Joe, etc.  I watch television but, in our house, tastes differ.  I don’t watch ‘Midsommer Murders’ or NCIS (or whatever !).  We time shift things we like (Still Game is the latest joy ).

Which doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for music programmes.  Driving in the car, sometimes I am in silence – thinking.  Meditating. At other times I listen either to classical music or to Radio 2.  As a public broadcaster, the BBC broadcasts music-only shows.  Its diet is not only serious politics.

A free media is not available everywhere.  Latest stories are of media people being arrested in Turkey and other middle eastern powers restricting what can be reported.

Radio must be only one of a group of related media.  All good outlets mix live broadcasting, web presence, social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and relevant live events.

But fundamental should be our involvement with / discussion with the local community.  We don’t tell them what they need.  We listen.  We don’t simply report problems – we look for strengths.  We look for partner organisations in the community with whom we can work.  Local businesses are part of our community, to be promoted, learned from and networked with.  Politicians play an important role – we need to be talking to them

The same logic applies to our discussion with those who share the task of presenting / reporting.  We work together to share ideas, to decide ‘who does what’, to act collectively.  Discussion once a month seems to me not to be frequent enough.  In these days of Skype and conference calls we should be able to share ideas more often.

So why don’t I just go and present on our “George and Mel” YouTube channel ?  Daughter-in-law Angela in New York works as Head of Celebrity Talent at Tribeca Shortlist.  She tells us that most of the celebrities she ‘rides shotgun’ on are Internet based.  YouTubers.

But there is strength in numbers.  We learn from each other.  We encourage each other.  We critique each other.  The group of presenters is also a community – not just to be directed but to be given a voice.



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