I’ve been told that Community Media Association is consulting on the principle of lifting the cap on commercial on-air advertising for community radio stations, and thereby moving away from the primary purpose of community radio for social gain.
I’ve attached some screenshots that were shared with me from an open forum, which indicate the tenor of the discussion and the intent to move away from the established principles on which community radio has been established in the UK.
I have two principal observations:
- The social gain principles embedded in the legislation founding Community Radio define the core principles of public benefit and should not be watered down for narrow expediency or subjective opinion.
- If community radio stations wish to change their licence status, and operate freely in the commercial marketplace, they should transition to an ILR licence, and develop a sustainable business plan, but forgo the discounted licences for PPL/PRS and the WTF fees.
As you can all attest, many stations are not dependent on the income generated from on-air advertising, nor do they wish to use this mechanism to develop their service, as they value their distinctiveness, independence and their editorial integrity, which they seek to put in service to their defined communities.
Many stations have developed models of funding and support that are based on low-cost, participative and developmental models of community radio, that are clearly different from those stations that are imitating commercial models of radio. They are dependent on the licence discounts and the protections that community radio licences give them.
My intuition tells me that if the principal of social gain is forgone, then so goes the principal of protected status for community radio.
It would subsequently be impossible to argue that community radio stations should be subjected to protection and discounted licence fees.
I understand that interests change and evolve, but this attack on the principles of community radio, is likely to lead to be detrimental and lead to the dissolution of community radio as an active social movement here in the UK.
I am not against a free market for media services, but the freedom to operate commercially should be applied without recourse to public subsidy.
Therefore, if stations who presently operate on a community radio licence want to transition to a commercial funding model, then they should speak with Ofcom individually about transitioning to an ILR licence, and pay the full commercial carriage and copyright fees those licences come with.
I think we need to give this some careful thought and discussion, but it seems like a moment when we should be prepared to let Ofcom and DCMS know that those of us who fully support social-gain driven community media, do not agree with this proposal.
Any thoughts on how to respond to this would be welcome.