On Saturday, 24th September 2022, representatives of ten different community radio (CR) stations gathered for a workshop at Dartington Hall in South Devon, UK. They had come to hear from Prof. Vinod Pavarala about the Community Radio Continuous Improvement Toolkit (CR-CIT), a methodology that has been widely used in many other countries but not yet in the UK.
Prof. Pavarala outlined the non-negotiable aspects of community radio, such as ensuring access for marginalised groups and producing content about local culture. He went on to discuss the areas the toolkit covers, and the room responded with questions and ideas about how they could implement it to support their work. The day ended with a round table discussion in which everyone participated.
The Community Radio scene here is extensive and varied. There are now over 300 stations licensed on FM and AM, and new ones are emerging on Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). The trend in recent years has been towards media deregulation, for example Ofcom’s (Office of Communications) dropping of ‘key commitment reporting’ where stations had to submit an annual record of their licence fulfilments, including training and amounts of local programmes.
Though state regulation is important, accountability at a grassroots level can help to preserve, celebrate and strengthen everything that makes Community Radio special. The methods outlined in the CR-CIT don’t just fill in the gap left by regulators, but hand power back to stations, to improve in ways that are right for their own communities.
The station managers, presenters and volunteers who came to the workshop were inspired to take the toolkit back to their teams and begin the process of reflecting on their work and setting themselves goals to take forward. At the same time, they will be helping to develop a more specific, UK version of the CR-CIT, making suggestions about what else is needed, what is relevant and what needs updating for the context of their work. This will lead to a new publication, which we hope will be widely used for a long time to come.
UK CR stations are very varied, culturally, economically and socially. By coming together in the spirit of mutual respect and cooperation, at this workshop and to develop the toolkit going forward, stations inspire one another and share best practices. By the end of the day, there were invitations to visit each other, start new collaborations and share content.
Founder and Director, Soundart and Skylark Radios, UK