It passed me by, but probably the worst example of ‘community’ radio went bust and closed down a few weeks ago.
The Superstation was supposedly a ‘community’ radio station for the relatively small community of Orkney. Except, it didn’t really involve any locals, and instead played pop music just like any commercial radio station. Indeed, like most of today’s commercial radio stations it didn’t even actually originate from anywhere in Scotland let alone Orkney, but was based in England.
It was largely ignored by the locals. It was as irrelevant to them as any of the other networked stations they can receive.
And, of course, it wasn’t community radio.
The sad bit about it not being proper community radio was that because it was there, any genuine community radio station the Orcadians themselves might have wanted to put together would have been excluded from being allowed to occupy any frequency.
Also, the concept of Orkney having its own community radio station has now been blighted with the inevitable, “Oh, they tried it once but it failed so there’s no point in ever giving them another licence for that area”.
That’s what annoys me about ‘community’ radio that isn’t actually community radio. And community radio should be producing programming not available elsewhere. The people producing it should be from the community. They shouldn’t be copying the formats of the multi-million dollar corporate giants either.
Community radio should essentially be local people talking about local issues, local entertainers showing off local talent. The bulk of music played over the air should be local artists. Yet how many pretend community radio stations are there? Stations just sounding identical to the corporate ‘brands’. Stations that are just a sly backdoor route to getting ego-trippers on the air in order to do their best impression of the well known national and regional brands. You know the stations I mean, don’t ya!
Why should a radio station have an advantage over others in this way? ‘Community’ radio tends to get the funding and the handouts that proper radio brands don’t get. This, alongside teams of volunteers, gives an on-air advantage over proper radio brands with all their obligations, rules and regulations. Despite this all seeming like it’s ‘giving it to the man’ it is in fact making a mockery of the whole community radio licence and concept.
Let’s hope Ofcom closes down all the stations that are pretending they are community radio!