Community radio

From Academic Kids

Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting material that is popular to a local audience but is overlooked by more powerful broadcast groups. The term has somewhat different meanings in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, and Australia. In the UK, it originated in the many illegal pirate radio stations that came about from the influx of Afro-Caribbean migrants in cities such as London, Birmingham, Bristol, and Manchester in the 1970s. Therefore, "community radio" remains synonymous with "pirate radio" for many people there. In America, community radio is more commonly non-profit and non-commercial, often using licenced class D FM band transmitters, although pirate radio outlets have been operated in many places. Canadian and Australian community stations operate somewhat similarly to their American counterparts.


Community radio service

Modern-day community radio stations often serve their listeners by offering a variety of music selections that are not necessarily catered for by larger corporate radio stations. Community radio outlets may also carry news and information programming geared toward the local area, particularly immigrant groups that are underserved by other media outlets. Unfortunately, when these broadcasters are illegal pirate radio outlets, they sometimes refuse to respect other legal radio stations and other entities, such as emergency services, and interfere with their transmissions. This can give community stations and conscientious pirate stations an unwaranted disrespectful image. Pirate radio stations can apply for a broadcasting licence but they will usually need to go off air for a time to present a legal case. Community stations and pirate stations (where they are tolerated) can be valuble assets for a region. Community radio stations are aligned with communities rather than corporations.

The international umbrella organization of Community Radios is AMARC ( (Association Mondiale Des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires).

United Kingdom

"Community radio" has recently been taken up by the radio industry regulator Ofcom as the name for its proposed 'third tier' of the UK radio industry. The idea for this new level of radio broadcasting was piloted by the Radio Authority (now Ofcom) in 2002 with the licensing of 15 "Access radio" stations (now superseded by "community radio"). The one-year licenses were extended in 2003 for a further year, and in 2004 a consultation was issued by Ofcom on the creation of community radio.

A good example of a modern day community radio station that evolved from a Pirate radio station from the early 80's can be found at P.C.R.L. or a direct link here: Reggae Pirate Radio Station (

Alternative methods of broadcasting include short-period licences, known as Restricted Service Licences, allowing community groups and speciai events to run local area low power stations for up to 28 days, and webcasting.

The Access Radio Pilot

The Access Radio Pilot, initiated by the UK Radio Authority, was designed to test the demand for community radio and to see whether such small-scale radio broadcasting projects were feasible. Some of the projects targeted a particular community of interest, ranging from religious and minority groups to children and older people, others such as Manchester's ALLFM and WythenshaweFM targeted geographical communities.

Access Stations include:

  • Resonance FM - in London, run by the London Musician's Collective.
  • Sound Radio - serving a range of groups in Hackney in London.
  • [1] ( BCB 96.7 - serving Bradford's diverse communities, with a mix of ethnic programming, specialist music and sport.
  • Desi Radio - in London, serving the Punjabi community.
  • [2] ( ALLFM96.9 - serving the communities of Ardwick, Longsight & Levenshulme in Manchester.
  • [3] ( - serving the large housing estate of that name in Manchester.

See for downloads of the two New Voices evaluation reports of the scheme

The Ofcom Community Radio Consultation

The Ofcom community radio consultation ( was issued on 17 February 2004. The consultation gave a brief outline of the Access radio projects, and made some proposals as to how the new sector would be managed. Included in the consultation were a series of questions which interested parties were invited to suggest comments on. These included whether community radio stations should have a cap of 50% of their income coming from advertising, and the order and method by which licenses should be applied for.

The closing date for contributions was 20 April 2004, and since this date all of the contributions have been published on the Ofcom website. Ofcom will shortly publish a summary of the responses, and will then make some decisions on how community radio will progress in the UK.

United States

American community radio stations are often staffed by volunteers and air a wide variety of programming. They are generally smaller than public radio outlets. Community radio stations are distinct from public radio in that their offerings are usually not syndicated programming but are rather locally produced shows. Community stations often try to reduce their dependence on financial contributions from corporations in comparison with other public broadcasters. Some examples of community stations are WAIF [4] ( in Cincinnati, Ohio, KGNU [5] ( in Boulder, Colorado, and WMNF in Tampa, Florida. These stations are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, frequently under low-power broadcasting rules.

While the National Federation of Community Broadcasters [6] ( is the umbrella organization for community-oriented, non-commercial radio stations in general, the Grassroots Radio Coalition[7] ( is the umbrella organization just for stations that meet the above definition of "Community Radio".


In Australia, community radio is the same to that of the United States, where stations operate as non-profit organisations, generally funded through sponsorship and listener subscriptions. One of the most successful Australian community radio stations is Melbourne's 3RRR. Like commercial radio stations, community stations need to apply to Australian Broadcasting Authority (ABA) for a license to broadcast. Existing to support and represent community stations nationally is the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA), which provides advice, assistance and also a statelite network so that stations can share content. A comprehensive list of Australian community broadcasters is available from CBOnline (

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