Community Media Discussion – What’s Going to be in the Community Radio Order?

In next week’s community media discussion, we will be looking at the forthcoming Community Radio Order that will follow the Media Bill that is presently working its way through parliament. We’ll be asking what the order will contain and how it may affect community radio stations, particularly those that support people from ethnic-minority and other communities, as protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act. We don’t yet know what DCMS are thinking about in the order, and if it includes measures to deregulate community radio and water-down the focus on social gain. If there is a reduction in the social purpose of community radio, what’s going to happen to people who need these protections because they don’t have the economic and social resources to maintain a commercial set of activities? Perhaps the question is: How do we better regulate community radio, which might include making reporting and accountability more rigorous, rather than watering down any requirements to demonstrate meaningful social gain by default and imitating commercial radio?

Join us to discuss how community communications and community sensemaking can change society for the better by opening up our media to greater diversity, inclusivity, participation and civic engagement.

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Community radio stations are more than just broadcasters. If run well, community radio stations can be the heartbeat of communities, acting as a platform for participation and representation by people who would not otherwise get the chance to take part in, or make content for large-scale and  mainstream broadcasters. Community radio remains a crucial platform for self-representation for people who are protected by the Equality Act 2010, including those defined by age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Community radio plays an important role in fostering community relations between people with of different social characteristics, and is not only about local participation, as important as that is.

Community radio’s principal purpose is to serve people from minority communities, such as those with protected characteristics, thereby promoting understanding and better relations within and between communities. Community radio stations are increasingly well positioned to foster local participation, as the BBC and commercial radio decouple from meaningful local provision, however, community radio stations are also expected to be rooted in their communities in meaningful ways. With programming that is tailored to reflect the interests, concerns, and culture of the specific community they serve. This focus on community identity allows community radio stations to engage with their listeners in a way that larger, industrial and corporate media outlets often cannot.

In community radio terms, the focus is on communities of listeners rather than audiences. A community of listeners can be thought of as co-producers, who help to support and develop the content of each station so that it remains relevant to them. Community radio stations can also provide opportunities for community members to get involved in different aspects of running a radio station and making programmes – from presenting and producing to technical operations and management. Community radio stations provide a space for people to come together to share their social experiences, history and cultural identity. This goes beyond a simple local outlook, and instead enables people to ask questions about, not just where they belong, but to what type of community they belong?

This hands-on participation in media making not only enriches the content of the station, but also empowers individuals, giving them a sense of ownership and involvement in their community-focussed media. Community radio stations play a vital role in serving individuals with protected characteristics as defined by the Equality Act 2010. They provide many people with a platform to express their views, share their experiences, and engage with their community. By featuring diverse voices and perspectives in their programming, community radio stations challenge stereotypes and promote understanding and acceptance of all members of the community. They provide content that is relevant to individuals with protected characteristics, addressing their specific interests and concerns.

For example, a community radio station might feature programs that discuss issues related to disability, provide information about local resources for pregnant women and new mothers, or celebrate the culture and history of local ethnic minority communities. By doing so, they ensure that individuals with protected characteristics are not just represented, but are actively engaged and included in the community conversation.

Community radio stations are a vital part of our local media landscape. They provide a platform for local participation and serve as a voice for individuals from many diverse backgrounds, some of which are newly arrived or are only slowly emerging. As community advocates and non-professional media producers, community media makers have an essential role to play in supporting other community media makers by ensuring that they continue to serve all communities in their unique and distinctive ways. Whether it’s by volunteering at a local station, advocating for community radio at a policy level, or simply tuning in and engaging with the content, we can all contribute to the success and sustainability of community radio.

Community radio stations in the UK hold a significant position in serving minority communities. They act as platforms for promoting diversity and inclusion, contributing to social cohesion. Each station’s objectives are uniquely tailored to the needs of its target community, reflecting the diversity of the communities they serve. However, these stations face several challenges. The UK radio industry has a low representation of ethnic minorities, which can make it difficult for ethnic-minority community radio stations to recruit diverse staff and volunteers. Additionally, these stations often rely on grants and donations, which can pose challenges for their long-term sustainability.

Despite these challenges, community radio stations continue to serve ethnic-minority communities by providing a platform for their concerns, promoting their culture, and empowering them to engage with the wider community. Currently, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is considering changes to the regulations governing community radio stations. The proposed changes aim to increase flexibility and reduce administrative burdens. However, these changes have raised concerns about potential increases in subjectivity and changes in record-keeping and reporting requirements.

The DCMS has initiated consultations on these legislative changes, which will shape community radio following the passage of the Media Bill. However, it’s important to ensure that all stakeholders are included in these discussions and that the principles of access and social gain that underpin community radio are upheld. In light of these developments, there is clearly a need for meaningful discussion, not just with established and well-positioned insiders, but with people who are general practitioners, and those who are concerned with making our media more inclusive and representative.

Without a clear voice for people who are passionate about maintaining the social purpose of community radio, this social purpose may be watered down. We clearly require an opportunity to explore your concerns as practitioners and community activists, and to ensure that their voices are heard in the ongoing discussions about the future of community radio. Community radio stations play a crucial role in serving ethnic-minority communities in the UK. As the DCMS considers changes to the regulations governing these stations, it’s important to ensure that the voices of all stakeholders are heard and that the unique role of community radio in promoting diversity and social cohesion is preserved. Your participation in the online discussion can help shape the future of community radio in the UK.

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