Community radio, which offers thousands of volunteers the chance to get involved in broadcasting across the UK, is now ten years old.
The last decade has seen the number of community radio stations increase from just a handful to more than 230 stations, each reflecting the local needs and interests of its audience.
Community radio is a not-for-profit sector, largely run by an army of 20,000 dedicated volunteers, who collectively work for around 2.5 million hours every year to bring original programming and locally-made content to listeners around the country.
Stations usually broadcast to everyone in a geographical area, but around a third tailor their output to serve a particular community– such as older people, or an ethnic or religious group.
Community radio stations typically cover a 5km radius, broadcasting on average 93 hours a week of original output. Many reflect a diverse mix of cultures and interests in their region. Stations also work within their community to offer a range of benefits such as training opportunities, work experience, local news and information resources.
Susan Williams, Community Radio Manager at Ofcom, said: “Community Radio stations have deep-rooted connections in their communities. Local people run these stations, producing content to inform and entertain their local community and offering real benefits like radio training.
“In ten years we’ve seen the sector grow in popularity, with large numbers of volunteers continuing to be involved and stations becoming a central part of communities up and down the country.”
The first station
Ofcom launched the first phase of community radio licensing back in September 2004 and received 200 applications for the first licences. The first station to launch after this was The Eye in Melton Mowbray, which was recently honoured for its long-standing contribution to its local community.
The Eye has doubled its workforce in 10 years, with all staff volunteering their time. Other stations reaching their 10-year milestone in the coming weeks include Unity 101 in Southampton, Awaz FM in Glasgow, Angel Radio in Havant, Cross Rhythms City Radio in Stoke on Trent, and GTFM in Pontypridd.
Earlier this year Ofcom began trialling a new technological approach which could provide a more affordable way for smaller stations to broadcast on DAB digital radio, ensuring UK listeners could benefit from hundreds more local and community radio stations in the future.