Community Radio celebrates 10th birthday

The community radio sector, of which Black Country Radio is a part, is celebrating its 10th birthday.

The sector is run on a not-for-profit basis, mainly by volunteers, and is designed to sit alongside the other two sectors of radio broadcasting within the UK - BBC and commercial radio.

The first community-licensed station, The Eye, based in Melton Mowbray, took to the airwaves in 2005.

It launched just a fortnight after 102.5 The Bridge had been told it had been awarded its own licence by industry-regulator Ofcom. We re-branded as Black Country Radio in September 2015.

The Bridge spent just over two years making preparations to get on-air and launched on 1st January 2008.

Since then, it has grown from a membership of 20 volunteers to more than 100, providing a dedicated community service of music, entertainment, local news, travel, weather, specialist music shows and local sport.

It comes on the eve of what could be a major milestone in the history of Stourbridge Football Club, who will reach the FA Cup Third Round for the first time in their history, if they can overcome National League side Eastleigh tomorrow (Saturday), with live commentary of the match only available on Black Country Radio.

"Before we came along, the likes of Stourbridge Football Club didn't get a look in with any other broadcaster," said Black Country Radio Chief Executive, Alex Totney.

"We changed that. Our initial aim when we launched was to try and mention Stourbridge and Halesowen Town's results if we could - in 2008 the coverage of the lower leagues was so poor, that we couldn't even guarantee the results would reach us before our sports show finished at 6 o'clock on a Saturday.

"Nowadays, the majority of teams are providing minute-by-minute updates on social media, so we've been able to tap into that, as well as utilising the latest technological advancements in audio streaming. This enables us to boast unrivalled coverage of grassroots sport within the Black Country, giving our local football, rugby, cricket and speedway teams the kind of exposure they could only have dreamt of before."

And, while most commercial stations tend to play a similar playlist 24 hours a day, Black Country Radio provides something different.

Alex said: "We broadcast over two-dozen specialist shows each week. Whether it's jazz, comedy, retro rock, local music, dance or classical, we provide listeners with access to genres of music that they will struggle to find elsewhere.

"And the best of it is, we do it all for the love of it - to serve the community."

Over 20,000 volunteers are involved in the operation of 230 community radio stations that now exist in the UK, contributing an estimated total of 2.5 million hours annually to helping their station bring original programming and locally-made content to listeners across the country.

Susan Williams, Community Radio Manager at Ofcom, said: “Community Radio stations have deep-rooted connections in their communities. Local people run these stations, producing content to inform and entertain their local community and offering real benefits like radio training.

“In ten years we’ve seen the sector grow in popularity, with large numbers of volunteers continuing to be involved and stations becoming a central part of communities up and down the country.”

Ofcom remains committed to helping community radio grow into its second decade. Earlier this year, it began trialling a new technological approach which could provide a more affordable way for smaller stations to broadcast on DAB digital radio. Black Country Radio has been broadcasting on the most local trial, in Birmingham, since September this year.

Alex said: "We are a unique station within the area. All the voices you hear on Black Country Radio are just ordinary members of the local community and anyone is free to apply to join us if they feel they have something to offer, whether it's in front of the microphone or behind the scenes.

"We truly are a station that's by the community, for the community and we're proud to be celebrating the sector's 10th birthday."

If you're interested in applying to join Black Country Radio, you can find out more information on our Vacancies page.


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