Access Radio offers opportunities for journalists

Journalists wishing to try their hand at radio and forge stronger links with local communities at the same time will receive a boost, following an evaluation of the Radio Authority’s Access Radio pilot scheme.

New Voices, a report by Professor Anthony Everitt, visiting lecturer in arts and cultural policy at City University, was issued last week to highlight the need and possibilities for local radio that would plug a perceived gap between the BBC’s regional output and the one-month restricted service licences (RSL) offered to community radio outfits by the Radio Authority.

Everitt, who is experienced in evaluating community arts projects, concluded that the access radio pilot scheme that ran at 15 stations throughout 2002, “gave hundreds of local volunteers the chance to become broadcasters”.

The evaluation, funded by the Radio Authority, will inform incoming regulator, Ofcom, how access radio might be licensed, regulated, funded, promoted and organised. “I have little doubt that if introduced, access radio will be one of the most important cultural developments in this country for many years,” Everitt said.

The 15 radio stations that took part in the pilot scheme, aimed to reflect all four of the home nations, rural and urban areas, including links with urban regeneration projects, services for ethnic minorities in the Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities, a wide range of age groups from children to older people, Christian-based stations and a range of financial models, according to the report.

The effectiveness of the Access Radio projects’ delivery of news and community information services was also assessed.

The report proposed that the BBC “should take an early opportunity to set out consultative proposals” for collaboration with and support for access radio. It also suggested that Ofcom should determine whether the spectrum currently administered by the BBC could be made available for access radio.

By Wale Azeez

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