Swindon 105.5: Radio by the community for the community
Shortly before Christmas 2014 I paid a visit to the studios of Swindon 105.5 for a couple of reasons. One was to talk to Shirley Ludford, the station manager, about the money-raising initiative the station was running in December whereby local businesses could, for a very small fee, have a song of their choice played and talk about their business. I was delighted to kick the initiative off on the 1st of December with a chat over the phone about my own business, AA Editorial Services: http://www.aaedits.co.uk I also had a few minutes on the actual radio talking about this here blog.
Aside from those two bits of excitement I certainly learnt quite a lot. Prior to this visit my perception of local radio was of stations whose programming is peppered with advertising for and by local companies and services – and I’d assumed Swindon 105.5 to be the same. I confess I hadn’t listened to it – but then I don’t listen to anything very much. I’m not one of these people that can work with noise in the background. If I’m doing anything requiring any concentration then silence is golden as far I’m concerned. But now, having met Shirley at the station and having done a bit of research on community radio as opposed to local radio, I’m somewhat enlightened.
Ofcom defines community radio as being radio stations that typically cover a small geographic area and that must be run on a not-for-profit basis. The idea for this form of broadcasting was conceived and piloted in 2002 by the then Radio Authority. In 2004, the Radio Authority’s successor, Ofcom issued a consultation on the creation of Community Radio.
While some community stations can carry advertising and sponsorship a small number – where they overlap with small commercial services – may not. And Swindon 105.5 comes into that group. As they say on their website: ‘SWINDON 105.5 is one of only 18 Station in the UK NOT permitted to support itself in any way commercially on air. The Station Manager successfully invited Minister Ed Vaizey to visit the Station in December 2012 and in July 2014, with support from MP Robert Buckland she was invited to the House of Commons to put the case for a relaxing of the regulations for this Station and the other 17 to ensure more fairness.’ Furthermore ‘SWINDON 105.5 is a non-commercial radio service in Swindon, by Swindon, for Swindon. Licensed by OFCOM as a Not For Profit community broadcasting organisation, with a specific brief and funded by grants, donations, corporate support, fund-raising events and support in-kind. It’s the only locally-based station that’s broadcasting 24 hours a day and they take no sustaining external service, unlike all other radio services in the region.
Now while I had no real understanding of Swindon 105.5’s status I was vaguely aware, though ignorant of specifics, of the community activities of the station. And as this blog is all about celebrating the positives of the Swindon community here we have this post – cos surely this radio station is a positive for Swindon?
Between them, Shirley Ludford, the station manager, trainer and fund-raiser, and her team have reaped a cornucopia of well-deserved accolades and awards for themselves and the station. You can read more about all of that here: http://www.swindon1055.com/about/index.php but two particular highlights of 2014 were the award to Shirley of the High Sheriff’s award for long service to the community and a visit to the station from HRH the Duke of Kent – 1st cousin to The Queen.
The station prides itself on giving a completely accessible and inclusive service to the town while providing training and volunteering opportunities.
And that’s Shirley something to celebrate? What say you? 🙂 😉