Emergency fund of £400,000 to support community radio through COVID-19

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Community Media Association
Press Release

 Emergency fund of £400,000 to support community radio through COVID-19

● £400,000 Community Radio Fund redirected to provide emergency support to hard-hit community stations
● Payments to help meet core costs of providing vital programming to local communities to made to successful applicants within weeks

The Government has today (Wednesday 29 April) announced that community radio stations at risk of closure can bid for cash grants through the Community Radio Fund to meet their urgent needs during the coronavirus outbreak.

Community radio is an increasingly important part of the UK radio landscape. Around 300 not-for-profit stations, based throughout the country and staffed largely by volunteers, broadcast to up to a million listeners per week.

However, advertising revenues and event contracts have dropped significantly as a result of the pandemic, which can amount to around 25-30% of a community station’s income. Additionally, opportunities for project funding in the medium to longer term are likely to be reduced as funders’ budgets are diverted towards addressing the pandemic.

The £400,000 fund, administered by Ofcom, will be used to provide a lifeline for radio stations that have been hit hardest by coronavirus. Community stations will be invited to bid for emergency grants through Ofcom to help address some of their core costs.

John Whittingdale, Minister for Media and Data, said:

“Community stations across the country are helping people through the pandemic with up-to-date news and entertainment and through their role coordinating volunteer networks.

“We recognise the difficulties they face and are releasing emergency funding to help them continue producing programming and services for the communities they serve.”

The independent Community Radio Fund Panel will assess applications and determine awards granted. Ofcom and the Community Media Association will provide guidance how radio stations can bid for funding.

The Community Radio Fund is a grant scheme set up to support the sector in 2005. To date funding has been awarded to projects and posts that promote business development and self-sustainability. It has been particularly successful in funding distinctive content tailored to the needs and interests of local audiences, offering opportunities for local engagement and fostering community cohesion.

Kevin Bakhurst, Group Director of Content and Media Policy at Ofcom, said:

“During this challenging period, community radio can provide a reassuring local voice to millions of people.

We know many community stations are facing significant challenges as a result of coronavirus, and we will be working as quickly as possible to administer this fund so they can continue to reach local listeners.”

Danny Lawrence BEM BCAc, of Gateway 97.8FM and Chairman of the Community Media Association, said:

“We are encouraged that DCMS has listened to our presentation of how the coronavirus is affecting our members and the wider community radio sector. The quick and early release of funds from the Community Radio Fund, administered by Ofcom, will provide immediate short-term relief for those community radio stations facing immediate hardship.

We would urge DCMS to continue to explore all options to provide a relatively small amount of additional funding for the community radio sector which will go a long way to support stations keeping their communities connected and informed during the crisis. We profoundly thank DCMS and Ofcom for acting so quickly at this difficult time.”

Bill Best, Operations Director, Community Media Association, said:

“This is a good first step from DCMS to help the community radio sector. General business support from Government has been accessed by some of our members but we remain concerned that some community media organisations may fall through the same gaps affecting other social enterprises. The Community Media Association continues to work with DCMS and other agencies to develop the long-term sustainability of our sector”.

Notes to editors:

The Community Media Association (CMA) champions access to community radio and local television for all to change lives, build diverse participation in social dialogue and give even the smallest communities a voice.

A non-profit membership organisation formed in 1983, the CMA leads advocacy for and governance of the UK’s movement of community broadcasters, which grew rapidly following a successful CMA campaign to establish community radio FM licences in 2004.

The CMA supports its members to uphold the Community Media Charter of best practice and celebrates members’ achievement with the annual Community Media Conference, regional networking events, a monthly Community Media Newsletter, an informative online discussion forum, and supports Internet radio through its flagship media streaming service, Canstream.