WHO IS ANDREW BANTOCK?
Andrew Bantock MIBS – Station Manager designate Andy runs Station Z Media Production Services in Rye which is a company that designs and installs radio studios and also does audio production.
Andy started his career in radio with the BBC in 1980 as a Technical Operator and since then has freelanced as an engineer and producer.
Andy is a well known figure in the radio industry appearing at numerous conferences as well as writing a regular column for the Radio Magazine.
The Andrew Bantock Plan
Rye FM – A Community Radio Station for Rye
Rye sits quite uncomfortably between the editoral areas of several radio stations; on the BBC front we’re right on the border between BBC Kent and BBC Southern Counties Radio whilst Commercially it’s Southern FM and Invicta that don’t quite serve us. Although Hastings’ Arrow FM has had pretensions in the past of serving Rye it hasn’t got the coverage or the inclination to do it.
No, the time has come to have our own station and now is a good time because new legislation at last makes it possible.
OFCOM, the regulator of all things to do with communications from TV to telephones has agreed to go forward with licencing new Community Radio stations after their predecessor for radio; The Radio Authority succesfully completed a trial involving 15 stations around the UK.
So what might Rye FM sound like? Well, there are all sorts of formats that differ greatly from the formlaic pop and prattle of Southern FM or Arrow, the highbrow elitism of Radio 3, the home-counties comfort of Radio 4 or the lowest-common-denominator laddishness of 5 Live or TalkSport all of which are excellent in their own way! Rye FM, whilst needing to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, needs to find a voice and so its exact format will be a matter of much discussion between now and the time we apply. Discussion that I hope the community will join at informal meetings that will be held in the area.
For what it’s worth these are my initial ideas of what Rye FM might be like and how it could work.
Rye FM – how do we make it happen?
By its very nature Rye FM will be a community effort and, as such, the community at large should be involved in its planning. After some initial publicity in the local press it is our intention to hold a series of meetings to gauge public interest whilst at the same time running an awareness campaign with potential advertisers and sponsors.
The next stage is to try and secure funding for the start up of the station.
I been squirrelling away stocks of second-hand equipment that will somewhat ease the burden on capital costs as will my ability to engineer the whole thing. Through Station Z I have also got access to studio and transmission equipment at a discount which, as part of my involvement in the station, will be passed on at cost.
Vital resources for any radio station are a studio site and a transmitter site. In Rye, due to the topography (ie the rather large hill in the middle!), we can’t expect to co-site studio and transmitter unless we can find premises on Rye Hill. This wouldn’t be the first choice in any case as the idea of a Community Radio station is to be part of the community so a central location is preferable. I already have ideas for both studio and transmitter sites but, for commercial confidence, these need to remain undisclosed. Of course, if you happen to have an empty floor or two in the middle of Rye that we could use for free or at a nominal rent we’d be only too pleased to talk to you about it!
Once all the detail is in place we then need to complete an application and cross our fingers – it’s that easy!! Of course that is the easy bit because, after that, you’ve got to keep the station going 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!
My vision for Rye FM
Rye FM will be a local community station broadcasting on FM. The rules aren’t clear yet but initial indications from OFCOM seem to be that stations will be licensed to cover a 5km radius with powers of roughly 25 to 50 Watts being made available.
In a ideal world Rye FM would like to cover Rye and the surrounding villages that we feel rely on the town as a ‘focus’ namely; Peasmarsh, Iden, Playden, Winchelsea and Camber, all of which fall quite neatly into 10km circle centred on Rye. The villages of Northiam, Icklesham and Beckley are over 5km away (only just in some cases). Topography means that we won’t be able to hit all the places we want to (bits of Peasmarsh will be a problem) but also means that coverage would spread quite a way eastwards across the marsh with nothing to stop it.
It’s not really about how far you can get it’s more about how well you can editorially serve the places you want to so, problems aside, I feel that the 10km ‘group’ is a good and achievable target.
Rye FM will have a studio base, hopefully in the centre of Rye, with a main studio capable of being operated by the presenter or with an engineer assisting a presenter. Additionally there will be a small production/ news studio where adverts can be made and news items assembled. There will have to be a small collection of portable recording equipment for news items and programme inserts and, through Station Z, access to outside broadcast/roadshow equipment for events work.
There will be three paid staff members; the Station Manager who will look after the operational and programming side of the station and General Manager who will oversee the staffing, fundraising and financial side of the station. Both of these people will be expected to deputise for each other and both positions may be either full or part-time depending upon need. As it stands I would want to take on the Station Manager role. The third staffer will be the Administrator who will look after the day to day running of the station assisting the other two staff.
By the very nature of Community Radio there will be a lot of multi-tasking and mixing of roles within the station. It’s likely that one or all of the staff members will also present a show or shows on the station. All other people on the station will, initially, be volunteers with the exception of a promotions co-ordinator who will be on a commission for all events and promotions planned and possibly an advertising sales person who will be remunerated likewise.
The station will be effectively ‘owned’ by a management committee of about six persons who will take overall decisions regarding budgets and general programming although most operational decisions will be left to the staff wherever possible. Rye FM will be constituted as a limited company but will operate on a non-profit distributing basis such that any profits will be put back into the business. There will be shareholders but they will not get dividends. It may be the case that charitable status should be sought but, from experience, this is difficult with anything that isn’t akin to a hospital radio station or the like so should be looked into carefully.
In addition to the management committee there will be a listeners panel whose job it will be to guide the station, offer ideas for programmes and gauge reaction to the station’s programmes.
Just a Radio Station?
One idea I have always harboured would be for the station to be a part of a wider community resource with possibly a café, internet access and a drop-in advice centre at which advice sessions (for example; local councillors, the local MP, Pensions Agency, Benefits Agency, Jobcentre+ etc.) could be held. Also I envisage possibly an extra studio for training and experience sessions for local schools etc. although this might be attainable using a portable set-up such as I’ve produced for clients in the past. Obviously anything on this scale would require largish premises but there would be a saving of scale.
I’ve already mentioned the promotions and events co-ordinator as I feel it’s vitally important to place the station firmly in the community. To that end we will aim to run concerts and event throughout the year as a fundraiser for the station.
The rules state that a Community Radio station should not derive more than 50% of its income from paid advertising and sponsorship. We’ll be lucky beacause of where we are; any station that overlaps by more than 50% the coverage area of an existing ‘small-scale’ radio station (Arrow in Hastings and Neptune in Folkestone for example) cannot take any advertising or sponsorship!
Initial capital costs will hopefully be met by a combination of grants and gifts whilst running costs will come from grants and advertising/sponsorship.
As mentioned previously, Rye FM needs to try and appeal to as wide an audience as possible whilst still having its own ‘voice’. To me, assuming the station will A typical studio set-up be music based – which it will be, the easiest way of doing this is to pick the main daytime ‘playlist’ with extreme care and to feature music just not heard on other local stations. To that end I would suggest that the daytime ‘playlist’ is made up of the following:
Non-‘poppy’ chart music
Classic rock tracks (album as well as single)
Acoustic material from singer/songwriters Local bands
Jazz (accessible form)
After eight o’clock the station would take on a more specialist form with specific two-hour programmes covering the following:
Big Band/Dance Band (not just old stuff but new material too)
Dance in all its various forms
Classical (including accessible Modern Classical)
Oldies (50s/60s/70s/80s)Heavy Rock
That’s just a selection of the possibilities most of which are dependant on finding knowledgeable and capable presenters.
Of course Rye FM won’t just be about music. The spoken word should also feature prominently and I envisage regular poetry and literature slots although the copyright problems associated with reading published material might push us towards specially commissioned material.
We would aim to build relationships with local theatrical groups with an eye to drama programming from time to time and there would also be specific programmes aimed at the young, women, Lesbian/Gay/ Bisexual/Transgendered, men etc. Any other group who feel they might like to get together to create a specific programme once a week of at whatever interval they feel able to would be encouraged and helped to do so.
Local activities and people will be at the heart of Rye FM’s programming and links with local clubs, societies and interest groups would be maintained to publicies events and inform listeners of their activities.
Whilst the station could not hope to compete with the likes of 5 Live and Talk Sport nevertheless it should feature sport especially local sport of which there is plenty. I suggest a Saturday afternoon show that combines music and sports with studio discussion, local guests and national and international results.
News is a thorny subject and a great consumer of resources. In order to do news properly a station really needs a full-time presenter but listeners generally seem to like news (if I’m wrong please tell me). My suggestion is to not have any regular news bulletin as such but to run headlines on the hour (read by the presenter) and to put all news resources into news show on a Friday hopefully in conjunction with the local press but tie-ins with newspapers are often difficult.
As an idea I have set out a rough programme schedule below. This shows only the music programming; speech programming would be fitted in as required and as provided
MON TUES WED THUR FRI
0600-0700 EARLY MORNING MUSIC*
0700-0900 BREAKFAST SHOW
0900-1200 MORNING EDITION WITH MUSIC, INTERVIEWS AND LOCAL NEWS
1200-1500 AFTERNOON DELIGHT*
1500-1800 DRIVE TIME*
1800-2000 EVENING SHOW WITH
1930-2000 POETRY AND WRITTEN WORD
2000-2200 FOLK/ACOUSTIC JAZZ WORLD CLASSICS BIG BAND
2200-0000 INDIE ROCK HEAVY ROCK SHOW TIME COUNTRY DANCE
0000-0100 SOUL/R&B* ROCK&ROLL* SMOOTH JAZZ* ELECTRONICA* DANCE (CONT.)
0100-0600 GROOVE SALAD – ambient grooves live from San Fransisco via the web
0600-0700 EARLY MORNING MUSIC*
0700-1000 WEEKEND BREAKFAST SHOW
1000-1200 KIDZONE THE SUNDAY SHOW – RELIGION
1200-1400 OLDIES OLDIES
1400-1800 SATURDAY SPORTS SUNDAY MUSIC MIX*
1800-2000 EASY LISTENING* THE LOCAL CHART
2000-2200 LOCAL BANDS CLASSIC ROCK SHOW
2200-0000 COMEDY STORE BOOK CLUB
0000-0600 GROOVE SALAD – ambient grooves
Showsmarked with an asterisk will be either fully or partiallycomputerautomated.
“Did you hear?Steam radio is coming to Rye. Have you still got your crystal set?”
created by Charlie Coleman
“Rye’s Own” May 2008
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