Community radio stations at risk of closure due to the coronavirus crisis are now able to apply for funding from a £400,000 grant from the government.
The news follows an announcement from the BBC that it is allowing community radio stations to use BBC news bulletins for small stations currently unable to create their own news content during the crisis.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced the grant scheme by arranging for the early release of £400,000 worth of funds in the existing Community Radio Fund.
The fund, administered by Ofcom, was set up in 2005 to support the sector and has previously supported projects promoting business development and developing content that is specific to the interests of local communities.
According to government statistics, around 300 not-for-profit stations which are largely staffed by volunteers are under threat as advertising revenue accounting for 25-30 per cent of the stations’ income has dropped dramatically during the pandemic.
Announcing the grant yesterday (April 29) John Whittingdale, Minister for Media and Data, paid tribute to the work of community stations in informing local communities: “Community stations across the country are helping people through the pandemic with up-to-date news and entertainment and through their role coordinating volunteer networks. We recognise the difficulties they face”.
Danny Lawrence, Chair of the Community Media Association, said: “We are encouraged that DCMS has listened to our presentation of how the coronavirus is affecting our members and the wider community radio sector. The quick and early release of funds from the Community Radio Fund, administered by Ofcom, will provide immediate short-term relief for those community radio stations facing immediate hardship.”
Ofcom will provide guidance on how community radio stations can bid for funding, with the sum given to be determined by an independent Community Radio Fund Panel.
The window for applications opens on 4 May 2020 and closes at 5pm on 11 May 2020, with Ofcom pledging to ensure emergency funding will be made available as soon as possible.
This welcome relief for the community radio sector comes after Minister Whittingdale told the Commons on Monday he was determined to give whatever help is possible to support community radio as well as commercial radio.
Local commercial radio stations are yet to receive a government support package, although the BBC’s local news bulletins are also available to smaller commercial stations by contacting the BBC’s Chris Burns.