'Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002' by Grant Goddard


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Notes from the Conference and Annual General Meeting of the Community Media Association held in London, UK on 2 November 2002, written by Grant Goddard in November 2002.

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'Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002' by Grant Goddard

  2. 2. COMMUNITY MEDIA ASSOCIATION Conference & AGM – 2 November 2002 The conference was held at London Voluntary Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London from 10.30am to 5pm. The delegate list numbered 82 people (17 of whom were CMA staff). Having not attended a CMA/CRA meeting for more than a decade, I had anticipated a larger turnout and a wider range of community radio groups to be in attendance. There was a definite lack of excitement at the event and a startling amount of antipathy between those community radio groups who were taking part in the Access Radio experiment and those other groups whose applications had been unsuccessful. 1. OPENING SESSION 1.1 Mary Dawson, CMA Chair, listed the highlights of the past year within the organisation and the major achievements. 1.1.1 Commedia Millennium Awards. These awards are in their third and final year and are used to fund people’s creative production for the first time. 245 people have been funded over the three years the awards have run, covering a wide range and diversity of projects. Unfortunately, no further funding has been found to continue these awards. 1.1.2 Policy & Advocacy. The CMA responded to an enormous amount of public consultations in the following forums [fora?]: Digital TV Stakeholders’ Group, Access Radio Advisory Group, and the All-Party Community Media Parliamentary Group. An Early Day Motion advocating the development of community media has been signed by 113 MPs. The CMA gave oral evidence to the DCMS Select Committee. 1.1.3 New technology. The CMA has launched an online Community Media Archive and the process of digitising community media from different projects has begun. The CMA has launched an Internet Media Service offering free web-streaming to its member groups. The CMA has supported learning & development activities within its member organisations. 1.1.4 Regional developments. There have been major regional development achievements, particularly in London and Yorkshire. The CMA has taken on more staff and secured funding for its organisation. It has also supported the Sheffield Community Media Centre initiative. 1.2 Steve Buckley, CMA Director, said that “in the next twelve months, we will be on the verge of a breakthrough.” He said that in the past year, the driving force had been the political and regulatory environment. But during the next year, much of the legislation will have been completed. The hope is that there will be significant opportunities for community media development. The main points of the last year were: Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 2
  3. 3. 1.2.1 Community Radio. There has been a breakthrough with the award of 15 Access Radio licences for a twelve-month trial period. The CMA hopes that there will be a continuation of these licences into the new OFCOM regulatory regime. There were 200 applications for these licences and it is only a pilot scheme at the moment. Some of the stations are struggling a bit, but they are all on the air. There is a wide diversity of programming. The first evaluation of the experiment has just been conducted and it shows a very positive reaction. Short-term licences under the RSL scheme are continuing. 1.2.2 Community Television. This sector has not been so productive in the past year. The takeover of many RSL stations by one company, and its subsequent bankruptcy, has caused major problems to the whole sector. However, there still exist some independent organisations that may not be making money but at least are still going. On the Isle of Wight, there was an ownership change from a commercial operator to a community organisation. 1.2.3 Cable TV. There has not been so much development. 1.2.4 New media. There have been developments in community-based wireless networks, interactive TV and the internet. The programming produced by community media is making major social gains. Empowering communities, increasing participation in local democracy and encouraging education. This is very important and this is why the government is putting community media into its legislation. Future developments that need to be highlighted are: 1.2.5 Policy & Regulatory Environment. This is the most important change. It will move the CMA from primarily focusing on lobbying to focusing on development. The draft Communication Bill provides Access Radio on a permanent basis, local television and a Community Radio Fund. There is no reason to think that these items will be drawn back before legislation. But there is nothing specific in the Bill about the regulation of these items – the details will be put in a further Bill at a later date. Such flexibility could be welcomed but, despite intensive lobbying, we are still not in a position where we know the rules of the game. We will need to go back to OFCOM & DCMS and hammer out the detail at a later date. Also in the pipeline for the future are digital AM, broadband, the internet and Digital Radio Mondiale. 1.2.6 Social Environment. This is changing and there is more awareness about community media. It is very exciting to see the mainstream recognition of what we are doing. The danger is that the mainstream might dive in now that community media are becoming more highprofile. The BBC announced that it will invest £1m in community media projects in the next year. 1.2.7 Economic environment. There are increasing opportunities for public funding of our sector. Many areas that resonate with the community media sector can tap into these opportunities and create activities. During the next two to three years, there will be a reduction of European funding that has been used to fund community media to date. In three Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 3
  4. 4. years’ time, twelve new countries will have joined the European Union, which will shift the funding structures from West Europe to East Europe. As we are given more licensing opportunities, we will create more income opportunities at a local level, creating a substantial funding base. The Access Radio Fund is included in the Communication Bill. The hope is that we can turn that into a Community Media Fund in the next year. There will be more competition from new entrants in the sector. As this thing becomes trendy, everybody in your neighbourhood will be wanting to set up community media projects. The CMA needs to look at how it can grow to provide more services. It now has 22 staff and its turnover has doubled in the last few years to exceed £1m. Things that need to be thought about for the future are: 1.2.8 The CMA will continue to be involved in policy areas – dialogue, advocacy and lobbying – but not with as high a priority as it has been. 1.2.9 Learning opportunities. We need to provide people with the means of creating community media. This is a major area of public policy. 1.2.10 Content and quality of content will come to the fore as community media develop. Sharing content between broadcasters will become more important. 1.2.11 Distribution platforms. This is becoming a much more complicated area than it was. The internet has changed things and the mobile phone will become a new channel for content delivery. 1.2.12 Investment environment. We have to look at the way the sector is funded – grants, loans, self-generating revenue. 1.2.13 Service provision. There are tricky questions about the CMA assisting with copyright for access radio, audience research and discount purchase of equipment. 1.2.14 Help groups in depth with their business planning and project management. 1.2.15 International relations. This has become a significant area for the CMA in the last few years. The ITU took a global decision to use DRM for digital AM. The CMA is engaged in the World Summit On The Information Society over the next few years, a UN-organised global summit working with like-minded organisations. The right to communicate is a human right. In summary, there are major new opportunities for the community media sector over the next few years. The CMA has appointed Arts Business Ltd in the last few days as consultants to work with the CMA to look at the future development of the sector and at how the CMA can provide the right enabling environment for its members in the future. 1.3 Scott Ferguson & Mark Prescott of Cultural Consulting made a PowerPoint presentation which they had used earlier in the week to pitch for the consulting contract from the CMA. The presentation set out the Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 4
  5. 5. regulatory changes that are affecting broadcasting policy making and the possible role the CMA has to play within the new legislatory framework. 2. WORKSHOP – “A PLACE ON THE DIAL?” – The Future Of Community Radio 2.1 Martin Blissett of the Afro-Caribbean Resource Centre in Birmingham spoke about his group’s history. In 1993 Martin assembled a group that bid for the Birmingham licence but lost out to Choice FM. After two to three years, Choice sold out to Chrysalis. Martin’s group raised a petition against the change of ownership because the new Promise of Performance granted to Chrysalis was completely different to that of Choice and they felt that the Afro-Caribbean community had been left out. The petition was unsuccessful so that Martin’s group was reduced to training people in radio skills to work for Birmingham pirate radio stations. Now the group has one of the experimental Access Radio licences. Martin said the group had been disproportionately successful in the work they had done. Their nine-month training programme had helped a lot of people get into pirate radio locally. The Access Radio station is called New Style Radio. Martin felt that Buzz had come into the Birmingham market and had sold out. Choice FM had entered the Birmingham market with a group made up of five local black guys and the management team from Choice FM London, but they had also sold out. This is why New Style Radio’s slogan is: “We give people great BUZZ and real CHOICE.” New Style Radio started on 14 August 2002 and had spent a lot of time publicising the launch and recruiting 100 volunteers to run the 24-hour station. Almost all of the programmes are broadcast live and there are only a few hours of automation. The programming is very diverse and not just music-based as there are phone-in and talk shows. The music played covers the whole spectrum of black music from soul, reggae and world music to African music and Caribbean music. The term “black music” encompasses white musicians making music in black styles. The audience base is building up very quickly. Because of the different approach to radio (earthy and grassroots), we believe that Access Radio stations can build up a cult audience in the first six months. Whereas, our experience with RSLs was that the audience just starts to build up at the end of the first month, just as the RSL is about to finish. New Style Radio was invited to John Prescott’s Urban Summit taking place during the last three days and radio reports were sent back live for broadcast on the station. 2.2 The discussion was opened to the floor and there was a very heated exchange between those community radio groups who had been unsuccessful in applying for an Access Radio licence and those groups who were Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 5
  6. 6. successfully running Access Radio projects and/or RSLs. Some examples of the debate: 2.2.1 Marilyn Wheeler of Raven Sound in Bromley [an unsuccessful Access Radio applicant] wanted to know: “What do we have to do to get a licence?” 2.2.2 There was a discussion about when exactly the long-promised community radio sector would be licensed. Many representatives from different groups wanted to know how long they would have to wait before being given a licence. 2.2.3 One community radio representative said: “As an organisation, the CMA needs to address the situation of groups who will never get a licence. Even under Access Radio, there are likely to be no more than 40 or 50 licences across the country on a permanent basis.” 2.2.4 One Access Radio member said: “Finding funding has proved extremely difficult because details of the Access Radio project such as what frequency, what the coverage area is, what the PPL/PRS costs are – this information was not forthcoming from the Radio Authority until very late in the day. Then the projects were told that they had to go on-air by a certain date. Funding proved very difficult to secure when applications top funding organisations have to be made so far in advance and take substantial time before a decision is made.” 2.2.5 Another said: “It serves no interest for us to complain about the decisions that the Radio Authority has made, when what we need to do is to look forward to what can be done to get community radio stations on the air in the future.” 2.2.6 Jan Howarth of City University wondered whether Access Radio licensees will bump RSLs off the airwaves in the future, particularly in cities where there are not enough spare frequencies to use for both purposes. 2.2.7 The CMA had put a ten-point community radio plan to the broadcast authorities in Eire and they accepted it and are now developing a community radio sector in line with AMARC guidelines. The same tenpoint plan was put to the UK government and was rejected in its entirety. 2.2.8 A delegate said: “Is there a future for the CMA if it is no longer going to continue its lobbying activity on behalf of those community media groups who have not yet been granted a licence?” The workshop concluded with the moderator [name unknown] noting his disappointment that participants could be so gloomy about community radio when there are now successes about which to be positive. Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 6
  7. 7. 3. LUNCHTIME PRESENTATION – The Community Channel 3.1 Chris Haydon explained that the Community Channel will be carried by BBC on its national digital platform. He described it as a carrot to independent filmmakers to have their product shown on a national channel. The Community Channel has switched emphasis from being a channel for voluntary sector organisations recruiting volunteers, to become a channel for genuine community media. The Community Channel is presently distributed by internet and by satellite. It also broadcasts 3 hours/week on Sky and on Freeview via ITV stations. The Community Channel is a distribution mechanism as opposed to a mass-media individual channel. Chris wants to make contact with imaginative projects on a local basis to feed their productions into the enhanced national channel. 4. WORKSHOP – “MAKING THE LAW” – The Communications Bill & the Community Media Campaign Nicky Edmonds, Deputy Director of the CMA, and Lesley Pullar, CMA Committee, explained the CMA’s actions to date around the Communication Bill: 4.1 4.2 The All-Party Media Group. 80 MPs have signed up to support community radio and the Community Radio Fund. This is the way that the CMA can influence Parliament from within. Early Day Motion. This was put in May and MPs have until November 2002 to sign up. 114 MPs from all parties have added their names so far. All CMA members have been asked to write to their constituency MPs to persuade them to sign. The Bill will be announced in the Queen’s Speech on 13 November. Two weeks later the Bill will be published. In the House of Commons, the Bill will go through the Committee stage, which will be all-party but with a Labour majority. In the House of Lords, the Bill could run up against a lot of trouble when it is debated on the floor, particularly about ownership changes. In summer/autumn 2003, the Bill be turned into an Act. The things that the CMA want to be included in the Bill are: 4.3 To ensure that the Radio Fund and Access Radio provisions are included. 4.4 To require that the Radio Fund be made cross-media to include television. 4.5 To require OFCOM in law to take responsibility for community media to work and thrive in this country. 4.6 To include a must-carry provision, particularly for TV, not only on cable but for digital too. Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 7
  8. 8. 5. ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING & ELECTION OF OFFICERS 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Minutes of the previous AGM (27 Nov 01) were approved. Report of the Council & Auditors approved. Audited accounts for the year ending 31 Mar 02 presented. New members of Council elected. Appointment & remuneration of Auditors agreed. 21 resolutions were proposed to the AGM and accepted with minor wording amendments: RESOLUTIONS: [wording as presented] 5.6.1 That the CMA should continue its campaigning. The main issues include Ofcom and its duties, the Community Media Fund and local and community television in face of the Communications Bill and “must carry” in the Communications Bill, including through broadband. 5.6.2 That the CMA promotes the concept of community television, and encourages networking and partnerships. 5.6.3 That the CMA lobbies Government departments to pressurise the Independent Television Commission to generate further digital Restricted Service Licences. 5.6.4 That the CMA sponsors an Internet project event, which would provide an opportunity for training workshops, for networking and for sharing technical expertise, funding information and audience research. 5.6.5 That the CMA develops a platform for sharing expertise across the organisation by way of, for example, online forums and an Internet media service users’ group. 5.6.6 That the CMA promotes to the RSL sector the interests and ability of the Community Channel to use (and time shift) its daily three-hour block on the BBC digital platform. 5.6.7 That the CMA actively lobbies its members regarding interest in and readiness to support programme making for the Community Channel. 5.6.8 That the CMA represents the views of the community sector to the Government, BBC Ofcom and other appropriate bodies that there is a need for a substantial fund for community media projects and that they should administer and organise such a fund for capital and revenue funding across the sector. 5.6.9 That the CMA requires the Government to make a definitive public statement of its ongoing commitments to the present and future development of Access Radio, and to further developments of community access media across all transmission platforms. 5.6.10 That the CMA supports the development of a community news network. 5.6.11 That the CMA delivers a support database online for members to access legal advice, skills training and contacts. 5.6.12 That the CMA provides streaming services and audience research information. 5.6.13 That the CMA urges Ofcom to make a clear commitment to the development of Community Media. 5.6.14 That the CMA asks Ofcom to give priority to early licensing of new community radio services, given the high level of demand regarding the Access Radio experiment. Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 8
  9. 9. 5.6.15 That the CMA lobbies to commence licensing of community television services on digital. 5.6.16 That the CMA campaigns to ensure that the media landscape reflects the ethnic diversity of the UK. 5.6.17 That the CMA identifies celebrities who would be interested in endorsing the CMA campaign on the Communications Bill. 5.6.18 That the CMA promotes another Early Day Motion. 5.6.19 That the CMA organises a day of action involving all Access Radio groups and RSL groups and to input on what happens on that day. 5.6.20 That the CMA produces a multimedia format promotional video with profiles of each Access Radio station. 5.6.21 That the CMA should use the existing Access Radio stations to raise awareness and promote their campaign for a Community Media Fund. Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at http://www.grantgoddard.co.uk Review: Community Media Association Conference & Annual General Meeting: 2 November 2002 ©2002 Grant Goddard page 9