Community radio

04 May 2010

Community radio stations provide a new voice for hundreds of local communities across the UK. Fuelled by the hard work and enthusiasm of volunteers, they reflect a diverse mix of cultures and interests and provide a rich mix of mostly locally-produced content.

Community radio stations typically cover a small geographical area with a coverage radius of up to 5km, and are run on a not-for-profit basis. They can cater for whole communities or for different areas of interest - such as a particular ethnic group, age group or interest group. For example, you can listen to stations which cater for urban or experimental music, while others are aimed at younger people, religious communities or the Armed Forces and their families. They can also bring community benefits such as training and community news and discussion.

Guidance on volunteer input PDF, 111.7 KB

A community radio station's programmes will reflect the needs and interests of its audience. But rather than ‘talk at' its community, the station should become a central part of it. This means creating direct links with its listeners, offering training opportunities and making sure that members of the community can take part in how the station is run. Community stations typically provide 93 hours of original and distinctive output a week, mostly locally produced. On average, stations operate with 87 volunteers who together give around 209 hours of their time a week.

Individuals are not entitled to hold a licence. We only offer licences to registered companies (or equivalent bodies such as those created by statute). No company or organisation can hold more than one community radio licence. There are also restrictions on ownership between commercial radio and community radio.

It means any profits generated by the community radio station cannot be given to shareholders for example, or to benefit the people running the service. However, this requirement does not prevent stations from paying staff. Any profit or surplus must be used for securing or improving the future provision of the radio service or for delivering social gain/community benefits to the station's target community.

Each station can carry advertising and sponsorship, although there are rules on how much income they can take from these sources (income above £15,000 from advertising and sponsorship must be balanced with additional income from other sources). A small number of community stations – where they overlap with small commercial services whose studios are not co-located with other stations – are restricted to a maximum of £15,000 from advertising and sponsorship.

Applications will be made available for public inspection on the Ofcom website. Shortly after the closing date for applications, we will announce the number of applications received, and subsequently we will publish on the Ofcom website all parts of the applications received other than those parts we agree to keep confidential. The published parts will include the name(s), address(es) and daytime telephone number(s) of individuals nominated to handle any press or public enquires on behalf of the applicant.

Licences for each region are awarded in batches on a rolling basis. If the number of applications received for any region is high, consideration of all applications is likely to take a number of months. Successful groups are required to start broadcasting within two years of the licence award.

The licence will last for up to five years at a time. Community radio licensees may then apply to Ofcom to extend their licences for two further periods of up to five years each.