Community Radio, For the Community, By the Community

After moving to Sidmouth in early June and after speaking to a number of people at the Town Band Concert, I came to the realization that although Sidmouth was a very close-knit community, there was no means of disseminating information apart from notice boards, a weekly paper and word of mouth at events.

The local paper is an ideal source of information but as the publications is weekly, and although vital, once the publication deadline has passed there is no way of getting information out until either the next week or passing it on by word of mouth.

Another observation was apart form the Youth Club, there was very little to occupy the creative minds of the younger adults. This also was the same for the people at the other end of the demographic sphere. It was apparent that a Local Community Radio Station would fill these needs and at the same time offer:

a) Entertainment. A range of musical genres provided by presenters from all walks of life and experiences.

b) A Platform for all ages to express themselves.

c) An opportunity to prepare individuals for a career in media.

d) A chance to utilise already obtained life skills. For example, administration, engineering and sales.

The concept of Sid Valley Radio is to create a Community Based Radio station providing information and entertainment to the local area at the same time engaging with the community to provide a social network and information hub.

4 Phased approach

The Office of Communications (OFCOM) have strict guidelines before granting FM community radio licenses or full commercial licenses and require proof of operation before a full community license if granted. This is indeed a catch 22 situation where one needs to run a radio station and show it working before getting a license to run a FM station.

It is worth noting that OFCOM grant Restricted FM Licenses for short durations, which would cover large events like the Sidmouth Folk Week. However these need to be closed down at the end of the period, which typically last for 28 days.

So the following approach is proposed:

Initially Internet only broadcasting. This method is void of OFCOM regulation and only requires a Peforming Rights Society (PRS) Standard radio service (Commercial) License which in incorporated in the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL)

1) PPL License.
This has the benefit of being cheep to operate and quick to setup; the major disadvantage being that it is not available (generally) in vehicles and only available through an internet connection. Most modern mobile phones would be capable of receiving this stream so the catchment area is potentially vast. A further benefit is that anyone in the UK would be able to receive this, so visitors would be able to receive local information.

2) Once the Internet only operation is established a local Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) license can then be requested allowing a greater audience. This will require an additional PRS license and will be regulated by OFCOM. On looking at the Ofcom web site there is information on setting up a low power DAB transmitter which is being looked into.

3) Short-term Restricted Service Licence (RSL). This could be used, as already stated, to cover the Sidmouth Folk Week Christmas shopping and entertainment. This would require the purchase/hire of a transmitter.

4) Full Term Community license. Regulated by OFCOM with a local FM 24 hour broadcast license. After speaking to Ofcom the last round of community license applications were over four years ago. Once the next round of Community licenses are up for distribution Sid Valley Radio will apply for one.

It is proposed that each phase is continued as the next phase is completed allowing the widest possible reach.