The Space Between: Finding a Place for Community Radio.
This research examines the nature of community radio as a form of alternative media, seeking to explore both the role of the medium and how this may, in part, be influenced by the impact of external factors, such as regulatory and technological frameworks. The work is therefore an investigation of both the outputs of community radio, and of the processes by which these may be achieved. Within the overall history of broadcasting, the community radio sector is a relatively recent development. This is particularly the case in the United Kingdom where a legislative framework for permanent services was only introduced as recently as 2004. Thus, in order to justify their existence (for example in terms of traditional broadcast spectrum allocation or funding support), community radio services must provide some form of additionality in order that they be complimentary to existing public service broadcasters and commercial radio stations. Such additionality may not, however, always be simply in the form of broadcast outputs. The role of community radio is perhaps a more complex one than those of its more established counterparts, since it typically provides more than simple uni-directional broadcast programming. At the heart of the concept of community radio is interaction and involvement, often best encapsulated in a sense of ownership by the community served. Thus, it may be argued that community radio services act as a community resource and a catalyst for development in its widest sense, facilitating social interaction and enhancing available social capital through democratic structures and participation. The research focuses primarily on the recent emergence of community radio in the United Kingdom, whilst also drawing on a comparative analysis of the sector in Norway, The Republic of Ireland, and The United States of America. These comparators have been selected not only because of their differing approaches to community radio itself, but also because, more generally, they offer a diverse range of media backgrounds and regulatory approaches. Information will be gathered through the use of semi-structured qualitative interviews, supported by desk-based research. In terms of operational practice and the nature of external regulation, it is clear that the diversity of the community radio sector is such that any ‘one size fits all’ approach cannot be effective. However, it is hoped that this research will provide insights into what mechanisms may assist a diverse range of community-based services to strengthen their processes and best achieve their desired outputs.