Bedford Radio asks local candidates to support our campaign to get on FM

The campaign pledge below has been sent to all the candidates who are standing as the member of Parliament to represent Bedford & Kempston.

We are calling on all the candidates to sign our pledge and support Bedford Radio campaigns to be allowed to launch on FM as soon as possible, as we feel that is one of the best ways to serve our future listeners across the Bedford, Kempston, and the wider borough area.

Bedford Radio is about to begin online broadcast tests with the aim at launching fully online in January next year, this is following the successful fundraising campaign that saw us raise over £1,000 from crowdfunding with the local community, as well as £4,000 from a local trust and £500 from borough ward funding.

“Online is our only option at the moment, we have hopes to launch on small scale DAB (SSDAB) when it becomes available locally, however we still feel that one of the best options for our station, to enable the majority of the community to hear us in the easiest way is to be available on FM, and we’re calling on our local candidates to support us in our campaign.”


Martin Steers joint founder of Bedford Radio

It has been sent to the following candidates – and we will update with their responses once received.

Bedford & Kempston

Mohammad Yasin – Labour Party – Has replied to say he supports us

Ryan Henson – Conservative Party – Has replied to say he supports us

Henry Vann – Liberal Democrat Party – Has replied to say he is happy to support

Adrian Spurrell – Green Part – Has replied to say he will support if elected

Charles Bunker – Brexit Party – Has not replied


Dear

I am one of the joint founders of Bedford Radio and I am writing to urge you to commit to making a number of substantial improvements to the long-term sustainability of community radio stations throughout the UK if you are elected as my Member of Parliament.

The community radio sector has been incredibly successful since its inception around 15 years ago. It is a dynamic platform for social change in the UK. There are currently 288 community radio stations in the UK licensed and regulated by Ofcom. A condition of holding a community radio licence is that the station must be not-for-profit and must deliver positive social benefits such as providing employment or training opportunities and reaching to underserved communities. Training and volunteer inclusion help combat significant social challenges around mental well-being and social integration. Thus, the sector consistently makes an incalculable positive contribution to the social and diverse fabric of the UK. However, these achievements have been realised against the backdrop of economic decline that started in 2008.

In Bedford we’re in the process of launching Bedford Radio, and despite representations to Ofcom we are currently unable to apply for a FM license to cover the area and have been given no future date of when there will be that possibility. Those within the sector suspect it might be in excess of 5 years and we feel that is far too long to deprive the residents of the area of a truly local radio station that is aimed to serve and support the entire community.

The Community Radio Fund, established by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and administered by Ofcom, has remained static at £400,000 for many years whilst the number of potential beneficiaries has grown. This fund is distributed in the form of grants, following a formal application process, to support community radio stations in delivering their social gain commitments. The size of the Community Radio Fund is insufficient to meet the needs of the existing 288 community radio stations, many of which are just about managing to survive. Moreover, potentially many new community radio stations will be joining the new small-scale digital audio broadcasting (SSDAB) platform under the proposed C-DSP licence.

Ofcom’s 2019 Communications Market Report shows that average income for community radio stations has fallen for yet another consecutive year to circa £49,000. Average station income has consistently fallen year-on-year from £84,000 per station in 2008 (around £115,000 when adjusted for inflation) to £49,000 in 2018.

A substantial uplift in the Community Radio Fund is now required to ensure the continued success of the community radio sector to deliver tangible social benefits for those stations broadcasting on both analogue and digital. Community radio achieves a high level of social return for low levels of social investment but imagine what could be achieved with even a modest increase of public-funded support.

I therefore call on you to support the following three initiatives, should you be elected as my MP:

1. To call for a substantial increase in the Community Radio Fund to better meet the needs of current community radio stations and to support the new digital community radio stations to be licensed from next year.

2. To support a commitment from central and local Government to recognise that community radio is a low-cost and effective medium for reaching underserved communities and to direct a proportion of government advertising to community radio stations.

3. To commit to supporting a call to DCMS and Ofcom that community radio continues to be licensed on FM spectrum in parallel with the future rollout of licences on the new SSDAB platform.

I look forward to you confirming your support for community radio and for the three proposals listed above.

Yours sincerely, Martin Steers
Bedford Radio