Memorandum submitted by Radio Regen
Radio Regen is a unique community development
charity based in Manchester that uses radio to empower residents
of disadvantaged communities to help themselves. The group trains
residents in radio production, facilitates broadcasts and establishes
sustainable community media production companies.
Radio Regen works in the UK's most deprived
wards according to the Index of Social Deprivation (Benchill and
Longsight, 2000 & 1999 respectively), in partnership with
the relevant SRB agencies. North Manchester and East Manchester
are also involved, as is the Forest of Bowland area of Lancashire.
Radio programmes have been produced by communities right across
the spectrum of age, gender, gender-orientation, creed and culture.
The results of the projects make a very strong case for community
radio in the context of neighbourhood renewal.
Community media is not just mainstream media
done by amateursit is a fundamentally different media form
in its own right. It is the true form of public service media
because by definition it exists to serve the community not the
needs of the production corporation. In community media, the producers
of programmes are secondary to the needs of the communityindeed,
their role is more often to provide technical assistance to members
of the public than originate programming themselves. It also non-profit
Community radio is the most accessible and cheapest
form of community media. A computer and a Minidisc recorder is
all you need to make even the most sophisticated radio programme.
It also has by far the biggest audience potential. Everyone has
a radio in their living room, kitchen, bedroom or carTV
and Internet will never get that degree of household penetration
in disadvantaged areas.
Radio Regen was set up by former Radio 4 producer,
Phil Korbel, and ex-Manchester City Council project manager Dr
Cathy Brooks, and started its activities in 1998. It empowers
residents of disadvantaged communities to set up their own community
radio stations. The project is one of the largest of its sort
in the country and the only one that trains, facilitates broadcasts
and sets up community production companies.
Radio Regen is a Registered Charity and receives
funding from the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development
Fund, the Single Regeneration Budget, the (arts) Lottery, the
Further Education Funding Council, New Deal For Communities, North
West Arts Board and assorted trust funds including the Lloyds
TSB Foundation. Its Board members include a broadcaster, a lawyer,
arts workers, an Oxfam shop manager, a community IT specialist,
a human rights researcher and a senior manager of the Co-operative
So far Radio Regen has had 70 trainees on its
books and hundreds of participants in the broadcasts that it has
assisted. Its annual turnover is approximately £250K and
there are currently 11 on its payroll not including freelance
trainers and arts-workers.
The core of Radio Regen's work involves three
stagestraining, broadcast and creating a sustainable media
production resource for the community. The latter phase ensures
a legacy for our work in the target areas.
Training: Radio Regen delivers a BTEC National
Diploma in Media Production (Audio & Community Involvement)
to trainees recruited from disadvantaged areas of Manchester,
Tameside & Salford. This training programme takes 14 months
and involves the trainees in most areas of radio productiontechnical,
editorial, theory and production. The resulting qualification
is equivalent to two A-levels.
Before the trainees progress to community broadcasts,
they get their first taste of live radio as the production team
behind a (temporary) city centre music station. This means that
the trainees are not trying out their skills for the first time
when they work in the community.
The training culminates in the preparation and
transmission of a community radio station in the trainees' home
areas. These stations are run by the trainees with the aid of
a Radio Regen "facilitator".
The trainees often excel in the practical aspects
of radio, creating programmes of a standard that has been praised
by many of the professional broadcasters that come into contact
with the project. Success is also achieved with trainees whose
previous experience with the education system has been unsatisfactoryespecially
where literacy is an issue.
The project has also "caught the eye"
of media employers in Manchester who regard it as a means of broadening
the pool from which they recruit. (A Granada board member expressed
great enthusiasm for the trainees because they have "experience
of real life" unlike the average Media Studies graduates
that normally apply to them.)
Broadcast: The community transmissions that
Radio Regen helps develop are the means by which the project creates
mass participation. The Radio Regen trainees devised the following
mission statement for the stations: "To provide a platform
for the shared abilities and concerns of a community."
In our first year we assisted four community
stations to broadcast for four days each. Trainees worked in the
target areas for at least two months in the run-up to a brief
broadcast, working with individuals and groups to facilitate their
involvement. Dozens of such contributions went into each station
and the subjects covered ranged from Local Area Partnerships to
Parent & Toddler Groups to karaoke. There was substantial
audience research before and after the broadcast and live participation
was encouraged from passers-by and spectators.
A series of four similar stations has just started
and can be heard via the Internet on www.mymanchester.net (look
for the "radio" label on the front page). The final
station finishes on 10 March and there is an open invitation to
any readers of this paper to visit and observe the stations in
Local enterprise/resource: A sustainable community
media production company (a Community Communications Enterprise
or CCE) is the optimum result of Radio Regen's involvement in
any community. These social enterprises are staffed by former
trainee residents and host future radio broadcasts, work with
regeneration bodies to enhance their "community communications"
and provide accessible community media production resources. The
enterprise works on a private and public funding mixpitching
to local firms for media work as well as bidding for the funding
of specific projects to grant givers. Typical clients for "commercial"
work include Housing Associations, SRBs, health agencies and local
Radio Regen is also undertaking other projects
outside of the core described above:
Remix The Streets is a Neighbourhood Support
Fund project supported by the DfEE. It involves youth workers
working with disaffected young people to make radio on the street
using a portable production kit (the "radio suitcase").
This project is currently being piloted on the Suttons Estate
in Gorton, Manchester.
Artransmit is a Regional Arts Lottery Programme-funded
project that involves members of disadvantaged communities in
creative radio projects. The radio play" . . . And
God Created Wythenshawe" is one such project.
Bowland Rural Radio is Radio Regen's first rural
project. Working with members of the community around the village
of Chipping near Clitheroe in Lancashire, a pilot weekend broadcast
will be followed by another broadcast in September. This area
is heavily reliant on hill farming and the project is part of
a broader initiative aimed at giving the community creative skills
to help them manage the transition into other areas of economic
Radio Regen in Salford is a new three year project
explicitly aimed at raising levels of community participation
under Salford's innovative Community Strategy. It will be funded
Employability: Radio Regen increases the general
employability of its trainees. Making radio involves team-work,
creativity, communication and IT skillsall of which are
in high demand by most employers. The project's independent evaluation
by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) noted that the huge
majority of trainees came away with substantially enhanced self-esteem.
A local employment access centre noted in regard to the project
that lack of self-esteem is often the main barrier to residents
taking up their services.
Radio Regen is the only entry-level radio training
in Manchesterthe country's second media city. It is also
the only radio training in the city region to give such extensive
live radio experience. It is recognised by all media recruiters
that on-air experience is the thing that they look for first and
foremost, and that this is in short supply for entry-level candidates.
Radio is seen as the "nursery" for
all broadcast media. Some of our trainees have already made their
mark at the local BBC radio station and Granada TV has shown substantial
interest in recruiting Radio Regen trainees to its digital production
Radio Regen has given contracts to four former
trainees and employed another five as freelances. Another trainee
has been employed by CSV Media.
Broadcast: Straw polls after the May 2000 Radio
Regen stations revealed 20 per cent listenership and 75 per cent
brand awareness in some areas. These figures would be the boast
of most conventional radio stationsespecially in the context
of such brief broadcasts. Word-of-mouth publicity derived from
the mass participation in the broadcast was felt to be the main
reason for the good figures.
The MMU evaluation of Radio Regen's first year
said, "People expressed delight in discovering how much talent
there was in their locality, and highlighting local achievements
and local heroes and heroines seemed to raise morale".
The evaluation also noted, "Social cohesion
was evident where groups began to feel validated through the experience
of being involved in the broadcasting process".
These two themespositivity and validationrecurred
again and again in Radio Regen's own audience research. When an
area's self image is determined by mainstream media (example headlines:
"Gun-chester" and "Bandit Country") negativity
turns into a self-sustaining cycle. Listeners to the Radio Regen
stations in May 2000 consistently referred to their pleasant surprise
at discovering that there was a lot of positive activity in their
It is accepted that the media confers validity
on many activities outside of formal belief systems. When communities
are able to turn a positive media spotlight on themselves the
feel-good factor is obvious for all to see. This is hard to quantify
but there is increasing acceptance amongst regeneration professionals
that such phenomena are crucial to the processand scarce
Effective communication with residents was another
benefit for regeneration agencies (eg SRBs) highlighted by the
evaluation. At the moment there is very little truly local media
in regeneration areas. Agencies often rely on badly-distributed
print media that might not use appropriate language for the residents.
The community media ethos of involving the "audience"
in the production of media products ensures the use of the most
All of the above benefits are handicapped by the
necessity of temporary broadcasts. All feedback from previous
radio stations stressed the need for longer/permanent licences.
Community radio is ideally poised to utilise
the social enterprise model by using Radio Regen's model of income-generating
community media production companies. Although it is early days,
there is clear evidence that the authorities involved in regeneration
are prepared to pay private sector (even consultant) rates for
effective communication with their residents. The surpluses generated
by such activity will help fund the radio stations.
Even though it has not been a priority for previous
stations, many local businesses have approached Radio Regen to
explore the possibility of advertising or sponsoring programmes
on the stations. They have been either very small enterprises
(eg corner shops) or very large local companies (eg Manchester
Airport) via their community funds. These opportunities are not
open to ILR and thus could never impact on their revenue as suggested
by the Radio Authority's submission.
There are very few funders (private or public)
that will resource a project without demanding brand profile from
it. To bar sponsored programming, as suggested by the Radio Authority
in their submission to the White Paper, would throw the funding
onus onto the public sector.
On 16 January, Radio Regen was the focus of
a House of Commons reception hosted by the Wythenshawe and Sale
East MP Paul Goggins on behalf of the Manchester Salford and Trafford
Health Action Zone. This illustrates the fact that community radio
is a good example of "joined-up" policies.
Community radio addresses health issues by promoting
the well-being of an area and publicising health initiatives.
It addresses law and order by providing meaningful diversionary
activity for disaffected young people and publicising Local Area
Partnerships. By training and job creation, community radio contributes
to education, employment and trade. By promoting community involvement,
the sector addresses many of the themes raised by Gordon Brown
in his recent initiatives on volunteering.
These cross-sectoral benefits tally well with
the approach suggested in the Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal.
Radio Regen fully endorses the proposals on
the subject of community radio made by the Community Media Association
in their evidence to this Committee.
We also believe that the resources available
for the development of community radio should be concentrated
where they are needed mostin the field of neighbourhood
Social exclusion is happening now, so to delay
this effective and economical means of fighting it is nonsensical.
The Radio Authority can allow long licences under its Restricted
Service Licence regulation and there are groups such as Radio
Regen ready to get on with a fully monitored pilot programme.