A Message from the CMA Chair

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Dom Chambers, Chair of the CMA

Dear Members, Friends, and Supporters

Welcome to the Chair’s letter which comes at the same time as the CMA’s first Newsletter of the year. I hope that January has gone well for you? It is a bleak time of year at the best of times but COVID and lockdown brings whole new levels of challenge.

Back when I worked in commercial radio, I always approached the New Year with a sense of trepidation because January was the month for getting fired. Festive good cheer would give way to stark budgetary reality. Always worrying when the boss asks to see you and then offers to make you a cuppa before the meeting. A sure sign you were on the way out! Mind you, they all want to link with me now so it all worked out in the end.

In all seriousness these times amount to huge pressure on us as individuals, our organisations, communities and society in general. My daytime job is all about using communications, media and music training to enhance well-being and help with mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. I have learnt that good mental health is something to be nurtured and not taken for granted. I have also learnt to consider that whoever you are interacting with maybe doing all they can to hold it together. There has never been a greater need for empathy.

At the CMA we are doing what we can to help our members and the wider community broadcast sector to get through this with strength and resilience. Bill and I get several calls a week from people needing advice or some help and we prioritise these calls over all else.

So to matters at hand as I look out into the year and see busy times.

This month we have seen two stalwarts of community radio step down from our governing Council. Lol Gellor has been the great flag waver for our cause. From lobbying government to drafting legislation and then to the settling in of licensed community radio Lol has been a true leader. Since then he has supported the CMA with the voice of sagacity penetrating through his glorious tales. Lol and I once talked about the roll of ‘ego’ as a driver from people in grass-roots media. He said, “My ego is wrapped up in the success of the project.” That is so spot on. I love him for that and all of us wish him and his family well as they embark on the next life adventure.

Danny Lawrence has also stepped away from the Board after leading the organisation as Chair for two years. His influence was to ensure that the CMA is an outward facing organisation. This is a great legacy for Bill, myself and Council to run with. Danny has so much to offer and the CMA looks forward to working with The Radio Hub, bringing people together for networking and to share best practice. Many of us are looking forward to The Radio Hub Zoom meeting on Saturday 27th March with Paul Chantler’s workshop on ‘Legal & Compliance’.

While on this, I want to offer Danny and his team congratulations on passing 12,000 in the radio giveaway scheme he devised. By any standards, this is a tremendous achievement and one that emulates so many positive contributions from our sector up and down the land in this time of national crisis. Danny becomes one of our key advisers joining the list of notables that include Caroline Mitchell, Steve Buckley, Lawrie Hallett and Terry Lee. Danny, working with Bill, will continue to represent the interests of members at our regular meetings with Ofcom. I am really pleased with this development as Danny has so much experience and knowledge of regulatory matters and so I am grateful he has decided to continue his valuable contribution in this way.

We have our new date for the AGM and board election on Saturday 6th March at 2pm. One of the reasons for putting this back was to give members a reasonable time to consider becoming a Council member. I have drawn up a guide to what this is all about so look out for that when Bill sends out the AGM notices. With our new constitution, this is an opportunity to establish a Board of Directors who will help drive the sector forward over the next five years. I have outlined a full list of skills and experience that we need but my personal priorities are to have leaders with business acumen and experience of marketing, human resources, and diversity and inclusion.

Other things to touch on. The CMA remains committed to SSDAB and we are planning a number of events to help with this. Working with DCMS and Ofcom, we are planning a Spring event with this as the main theme. As to the annual Community Media Conference, this will be put back to the Autumn. We are in the early stages of planning so far but I can tell you that this event will hope to achieve a balance between physical attendance and online participation. Naturally, plans will be informed by government guidelines.

The CMA is working with DCMS on research to establish some data and narrative around community radio audiences as well as the social impact of what we do. Our Vice-Chair, Janey Gordon, represents the CMA on DCMS’ Audio & Radio Review Listener Group which is expected to report in March. We are shortly launching a Community Radio Listener Survey so please help with that.

I lead on communications with DCMS and have been writing a report on why the government is missing opportunities to engage with sections of the population who do engage with community and grassroots media. The intention is to take this work to the Cabinet Office which is a key central point for inter-departmental communications. This work will also feed into the future of the Community Radio Fund. Clearly, we would like to secure this fund for another 5-year term and increase the budget commitment to it. I am personally lobbying for the Fund to be able to support 3-year business plans which would make sense if the size of the fund increases.

I also want to quickly mention a project we have going in Somerset which could impact elsewhere. In Somerset, we have all the community radio stations and BBC local radio working in collaboration. We are developing a digital passport system for volunteers to carry that demonstrate essential competencies in audio and radio. The launch of this has been delayed but in February, we hope to move this on to the next stage. This will fully launch during 2021 and we then hope to scale it up to other parts of the country. This is exciting news and a space to keep an eye on.

Lastly, if you are not aware, the ARIAs have extended their deadline for entries this year so you have another couple of weeks to get your entries in. I can tell you as a Trustee of the Radio Academy that we have worked on making these Awards as inclusive as possible of all sectors in the audio and radio industry. It was good to see many CMA members participate in the recent Academy Trustee elections. Do not forget that CMA members are eligible for membership of the Radio Academy at no cost.

Finally, I wanted to thank Bill for working tirelessly to support us all. Also to show appreciation to Janey, Richard, Gloria and Javed on Council for the dedication and time they give voluntarily. The CMA is here to help support and grow community media in the UK. COVID has increased the demand for what we do. Help us to help you and together we will make things happen. As always, my phone line is open for anyone who wants to talk.

Best wishes,

Dom Chambers signature




Chair of the CMA
chair@commedia.org.uk | 01761 411222