Radio for communities of interest

I’ve spoken before about my personal definition of community radio (here).  Well, community-access radio.  But, I might be slightly wrong by not being completely inclusive.

In the 1980s the Home Office was set to licence dozens, if not hundreds, of community radio stations around the country and it asked for expressions of interest.  As you might expect, they were overwhelmed with applications from the predominantly left of centre self-appointed spokespeople with politically charged formats.

Among these were a few ‘genuine’ community radio ideas, but the scary prospect of ‘ditch the bitch’ type bile being spewed into the airwaves by Trotskyites wasn’t something that sat well with Mrs Thatcher’s government of the day.  The idea of community radio was silently put on hold for many decades.

However, one thing that did come from this time of false promises was two definitions of community radio.

The first could be described as not too dissimilar to my own preachings, and is a radio station with a defined geographical reach, dealing with inclusive programming from and for ALL the people of that geographical area.

The second was described as ‘community of interest’ and was essentially not geographically defined nor confined other than because of the logitistics of not being able to broadcast to the entire UK (Ideally however, ‘community of interest’ radio should be ‘national’ in reach).

A ‘community of interest’ station could range from being a radio station using a specific ethnic community non-English language, through to being a radio station for lovers of a particular type of music.  In fact, the ‘community of interest’ brush is quite a broad one really.

Its broadness of course can leave the whole process open to abuse, with licences in danger of being granted to an ad hoc ‘community of interest’ and the resultant radio station just sounding like any other commercial radio enterprise, so we have to find examples of what constitutes a ‘community of interest’ that is being successfully served by a community radio station.

An example should be one that I feel excluded from.  Indeed, all community radio should exclude me except for one aimed at the geographical area I live in, or one aimed at those with similar interests to me (whatever the heck those might be).  So, let’s look at one that I instantly feel excluded from, Celtic Music Radio.

(A Celtic gentleman from Celtic land playing Celtic music)

Celtic Music Radio broadcasts to Glasgow, and although music based, is quite clearly for the generations that define themselves by their heritage.

They say:

“Celtic Music Radio has a mission to be a strong cultural voice for contemporary and traditional Scottish music, arts and culture, pioneering new frontiers in communication and broadcasting by including people that do not have access to mainstream media.

The service is targeted at our ‘community of interest’, namely the Glasgow area’s practising creative artists in a broad range of music and cultural endeavour across a range of genres of music, media and speech.

The service aims to advance education, in particular by promoting the performance, learning and appreciation of a broad spectrum of Celtic music and cultural activity; to enhance the understanding of this genre of music and be pro-active in the development of the rich heritage of Celtic music and Scottish culture.”

To me, this seems like a really good definition of a community radio station, I can’t fault it.
And, does it pass the excluding Christopher England test?  Yes it does.
I mean, why would I want to listen? 
Exactly.  That’s proved it is a ‘community of interest’ service outside of my own ‘community of interest’.  Now, by definition Celtic Music Radio has had to Scottishify themselves, but in truth their programming would suit ‘any’ Celtic interest across the UK and Ireland or indeed the planet, whether that be ‘Irish’ or ‘Welsh’ rather than ‘Scottish’, or any lover of their traditional music to commit suicide to (f’narr, my view only of course!).
Now, it seems to me that Celtic Music Radio is a shining example of community radio.  In contrast, a community radio station just playing the same music as any other commercial radio station, like for instance the “Superstation” broadcasting at Orkney, certainly is not.


  1. Thank you for your kind words, Chris.

    Can I point out that our output is not just Trad-to-committ-suicide-to?

    We play a range of “Celtic” inspired/linked music, including Americana, Singer-Songwriters, World, Country, and a wee stray into rock & pop (but not much).

    You should try it out!
    Friday's 8-10pm for example! 😉


  2. Well thank you kind sir, we try very hard to serve our community where ever we find them. The provision of genre specific music is the way forward in music radio, we do not aim at playing the safe songs rather we have a diverse play list of in excess of 10000 tracks (and growing) which are programmed by some entusiastic people and recieved by an equally entusiastic audience.
    Regular live broadcasts from concerts and festivals ensure that we continue to connect with our community.


  3. I've held these beliefs and practiced them, since the 1960s. The sooner we end the ridiculous, unfair and undemocratic near-monopoly of pop radio, the better.


  4. “Celtic Music Radio has a mission to be a strong cultural voice for ….. culture ….” and please what again should 'cultural culture' deal with? Love? or raging people's struggle? So to avoid deserted meaningless musical patterns, why not broadcasting more of labor songs?



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