Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Radio Regen


  Radio Regen is a unique community development charity based in Manchester that uses radio to empower residents of disadvantaged communities to help themselves. The group trains residents in radio production, facilitates broadcasts and establishes sustainable community media production companies.

  Radio Regen works in the UK's most deprived wards according to the Index of Social Deprivation (Benchill and Longsight, 2000 & 1999 respectively), in partnership with the relevant SRB agencies. North Manchester and East Manchester are also involved, as is the Forest of Bowland area of Lancashire. Radio programmes have been produced by communities right across the spectrum of age, gender, gender-orientation, creed and culture. The results of the projects make a very strong case for community radio in the context of neighbourhood renewal.


  Community media is not just mainstream media done by amateurs—it is a fundamentally different media form in its own right. It is the true form of public service media because by definition it exists to serve the community not the needs of the production corporation. In community media, the producers of programmes are secondary to the needs of the community—indeed, their role is more often to provide technical assistance to members of the public than originate programming themselves. It also non-profit distributing.

  Community radio is the most accessible and cheapest form of community media. A computer and a Minidisc recorder is all you need to make even the most sophisticated radio programme. It also has by far the biggest audience potential. Everyone has a radio in their living room, kitchen, bedroom or car—TV and Internet will never get that degree of household penetration in disadvantaged areas.


  Radio Regen was set up by former Radio 4 producer, Phil Korbel, and ex-Manchester City Council project manager Dr Cathy Brooks, and started its activities in 1998. It empowers residents of disadvantaged communities to set up their own community radio stations. The project is one of the largest of its sort in the country and the only one that trains, facilitates broadcasts and sets up community production companies.

  Radio Regen is a Registered Charity and receives funding from the European Social Fund, the European Regional Development Fund, the Single Regeneration Budget, the (arts) Lottery, the Further Education Funding Council, New Deal For Communities, North West Arts Board and assorted trust funds including the Lloyds TSB Foundation. Its Board members include a broadcaster, a lawyer, arts workers, an Oxfam shop manager, a community IT specialist, a human rights researcher and a senior manager of the Co-operative Bank.

  So far Radio Regen has had 70 trainees on its books and hundreds of participants in the broadcasts that it has assisted. Its annual turnover is approximately £250K and there are currently 11 on its payroll not including freelance trainers and arts-workers.


The core of Radio Regen's work involves three stages—training, broadcast and creating a sustainable media production resource for the community. The latter phase ensures a legacy for our work in the target areas.

  Training: Radio Regen delivers a BTEC National Diploma in Media Production (Audio & Community Involvement) to trainees recruited from disadvantaged areas of Manchester, Tameside & Salford. This training programme takes 14 months and involves the trainees in most areas of radio production—technical, editorial, theory and production. The resulting qualification is equivalent to two A-levels.

  Before the trainees progress to community broadcasts, they get their first taste of live radio as the production team behind a (temporary) city centre music station. This means that the trainees are not trying out their skills for the first time when they work in the community.

  The training culminates in the preparation and transmission of a community radio station in the trainees' home areas. These stations are run by the trainees with the aid of a Radio Regen "facilitator".

  The trainees often excel in the practical aspects of radio, creating programmes of a standard that has been praised by many of the professional broadcasters that come into contact with the project. Success is also achieved with trainees whose previous experience with the education system has been unsatisfactory—especially where literacy is an issue.

  The project has also "caught the eye" of media employers in Manchester who regard it as a means of broadening the pool from which they recruit. (A Granada board member expressed great enthusiasm for the trainees because they have "experience of real life" unlike the average Media Studies graduates that normally apply to them.)

  Broadcast: The community transmissions that Radio Regen helps develop are the means by which the project creates mass participation. The Radio Regen trainees devised the following mission statement for the stations: "To provide a platform for the shared abilities and concerns of a community."

  In our first year we assisted four community stations to broadcast for four days each. Trainees worked in the target areas for at least two months in the run-up to a brief broadcast, working with individuals and groups to facilitate their involvement. Dozens of such contributions went into each station and the subjects covered ranged from Local Area Partnerships to Parent & Toddler Groups to karaoke. There was substantial audience research before and after the broadcast and live participation was encouraged from passers-by and spectators.

  A series of four similar stations has just started and can be heard via the Internet on (look for the "radio" label on the front page). The final station finishes on 10 March and there is an open invitation to any readers of this paper to visit and observe the stations in action.

  Local enterprise/resource: A sustainable community media production company (a Community Communications Enterprise or CCE) is the optimum result of Radio Regen's involvement in any community. These social enterprises are staffed by former trainee residents and host future radio broadcasts, work with regeneration bodies to enhance their "community communications" and provide accessible community media production resources. The enterprise works on a private and public funding mix—pitching to local firms for media work as well as bidding for the funding of specific projects to grant givers. Typical clients for "commercial" work include Housing Associations, SRBs, health agencies and local authorities.

Radio Regen is also undertaking other projects outside of the core described above:

  Remix The Streets is a Neighbourhood Support Fund project supported by the DfEE. It involves youth workers working with disaffected young people to make radio on the street using a portable production kit (the "radio suitcase"). This project is currently being piloted on the Suttons Estate in Gorton, Manchester.

  Artransmit is a Regional Arts Lottery Programme-funded project that involves members of disadvantaged communities in creative radio projects. The radio play—" . . . And God Created Wythenshawe" is one such project.

  Bowland Rural Radio is Radio Regen's first rural project. Working with members of the community around the village of Chipping near Clitheroe in Lancashire, a pilot weekend broadcast will be followed by another broadcast in September. This area is heavily reliant on hill farming and the project is part of a broader initiative aimed at giving the community creative skills to help them manage the transition into other areas of economic activity.

  Radio Regen in Salford is a new three year project explicitly aimed at raising levels of community participation under Salford's innovative Community Strategy. It will be funded under SRB5.


  Employability: Radio Regen increases the general employability of its trainees. Making radio involves team-work, creativity, communication and IT skills—all of which are in high demand by most employers. The project's independent evaluation by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) noted that the huge majority of trainees came away with substantially enhanced self-esteem. A local employment access centre noted in regard to the project that lack of self-esteem is often the main barrier to residents taking up their services.

  Radio Regen is the only entry-level radio training in Manchester—the country's second media city. It is also the only radio training in the city region to give such extensive live radio experience. It is recognised by all media recruiters that on-air experience is the thing that they look for first and foremost, and that this is in short supply for entry-level candidates.

  Radio is seen as the "nursery" for all broadcast media. Some of our trainees have already made their mark at the local BBC radio station and Granada TV has shown substantial interest in recruiting Radio Regen trainees to its digital production company GskyB.

  Radio Regen has given contracts to four former trainees and employed another five as freelances. Another trainee has been employed by CSV Media.

  Broadcast: Straw polls after the May 2000 Radio Regen stations revealed 20 per cent listenership and 75 per cent brand awareness in some areas. These figures would be the boast of most conventional radio stations—especially in the context of such brief broadcasts. Word-of-mouth publicity derived from the mass participation in the broadcast was felt to be the main reason for the good figures.

  The MMU evaluation of Radio Regen's first year said, "People expressed delight in discovering how much talent there was in their locality, and highlighting local achievements and local heroes and heroines seemed to raise morale".

  The evaluation also noted, "Social cohesion was evident where groups began to feel validated through the experience of being involved in the broadcasting process".

  These two themes—positivity and validation—recurred again and again in Radio Regen's own audience research. When an area's self image is determined by mainstream media (example headlines: "Gun-chester" and "Bandit Country") negativity turns into a self-sustaining cycle. Listeners to the Radio Regen stations in May 2000 consistently referred to their pleasant surprise at discovering that there was a lot of positive activity in their neighbourhood.

  It is accepted that the media confers validity on many activities outside of formal belief systems. When communities are able to turn a positive media spotlight on themselves the feel-good factor is obvious for all to see. This is hard to quantify but there is increasing acceptance amongst regeneration professionals that such phenomena are crucial to the process—and scarce too.

  Effective communication with residents was another benefit for regeneration agencies (eg SRBs) highlighted by the evaluation. At the moment there is very little truly local media in regeneration areas. Agencies often rely on badly-distributed print media that might not use appropriate language for the residents. The community media ethos of involving the "audience" in the production of media products ensures the use of the most appropriate language.

All of the above benefits are handicapped by the necessity of temporary broadcasts. All feedback from previous radio stations stressed the need for longer/permanent licences.


  Community radio is ideally poised to utilise the social enterprise model by using Radio Regen's model of income-generating community media production companies. Although it is early days, there is clear evidence that the authorities involved in regeneration are prepared to pay private sector (even consultant) rates for effective communication with their residents. The surpluses generated by such activity will help fund the radio stations.

  Even though it has not been a priority for previous stations, many local businesses have approached Radio Regen to explore the possibility of advertising or sponsoring programmes on the stations. They have been either very small enterprises (eg corner shops) or very large local companies (eg Manchester Airport) via their community funds. These opportunities are not open to ILR and thus could never impact on their revenue as suggested by the Radio Authority's submission.

  There are very few funders (private or public) that will resource a project without demanding brand profile from it. To bar sponsored programming, as suggested by the Radio Authority in their submission to the White Paper, would throw the funding onus onto the public sector.


  On 16 January, Radio Regen was the focus of a House of Commons reception hosted by the Wythenshawe and Sale East MP Paul Goggins on behalf of the Manchester Salford and Trafford Health Action Zone. This illustrates the fact that community radio is a good example of "joined-up" policies.

  Community radio addresses health issues by promoting the well-being of an area and publicising health initiatives. It addresses law and order by providing meaningful diversionary activity for disaffected young people and publicising Local Area Partnerships. By training and job creation, community radio contributes to education, employment and trade. By promoting community involvement, the sector addresses many of the themes raised by Gordon Brown in his recent initiatives on volunteering.

  These cross-sectoral benefits tally well with the approach suggested in the Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal.


  Radio Regen fully endorses the proposals on the subject of community radio made by the Community Media Association in their evidence to this Committee.

  We also believe that the resources available for the development of community radio should be concentrated where they are needed most—in the field of neighbourhood renewal.

  Social exclusion is happening now, so to delay this effective and economical means of fighting it is nonsensical. The Radio Authority can allow long licences under its Restricted Service Licence regulation and there are groups such as Radio Regen ready to get on with a fully monitored pilot programme.

February 2001

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Prepared 23 February 2001