Leith FM at December 2007

HISTORY

In Spring 2003 volunteers from Leith Festival ran Leith FM 1, a successful short term broadcast (RSL) over the Leith Festival week. In Winter 2003/4 Leith Community Mediaworks (LCM) was set-up to deliver Community Radio & TV for and by the people of Leith.
In July 2004 the UK government established Community Radio as a distinct service from the BBC & Commercial stations and invited applications for licences. In autumn 2004 LCM applied for a Leith licence and in February 2006 were granted it. From 2003 to 2006 LCM ran five more RSLs ending with LFM 6 in June 2006.

In March 2007 Leith FM began broadcasting and on Monday May 7th. 2007 launched the fully live service from our studios at the Leith Dockers Club.

WHY COMMUNITY RADIO?

Community Radio is about access and delivery. Leith FM is a new voice giving access to the previously disenfranchised and broadcasting new information.

If you don’t hear output on Leith FM that you never heard before on any radio station…what was the point? Why did all those people campaign for all those years for Community Radio? If all you need is BBC & Commercial radio why did we get Community Radio? Leith FM IS Community Radio. New voices saying new things on radio.

THE LEGACY

To get where we are today it took huge planning projects involving many people who are not all present now.

THE RSLs

Leith FM broadcast over 2000 hours on short-term broadcasts. Since 2003 over 200 volunteers have kept Leith FM going and a huge thanks goes to everyone.

THE LAUNCH and EMPOWERMENT

Lets remember here the people we empower as managers, technicians, producers, administrators and of course presenters; the Executive committee that worked so hard to raise the cash and plan the station launch; the technical team that succeeded in building a studio & transmission system almost before any cash had arrived and the production team that succeeded in planning our initial live service around an uncertain launch date.

By launching `softly` at the end of March we secured £25k for this financial year and assured the teams that their planning work was worthwhile and the full launch in May `very likely`. In the end our fully live launch was in the middle of our projected dates and a month ahead of the 2007 Leith
Festival.

When we began planning in 2004 there was almost no community radio experience in the UK. There was an excellent handbook prepared by Radio Regen but the launches last spring of the first NEW stations was still an unknown process for everybody.

The key factor was that we sought an agreement from Ofcom that Leith FM could `soft launch` in March by broadcasting recorded material beyond the period of a strict interpretation of the rules. Ofcom has now adopted the `soft launch` as good practice and runs workshops to assist the launch of new stations based on that early experience.

TRAINING

Three courses are complete and this academic year we will run 8 courses for Leith FM next year. All  courses are run outside the studio. New volunteers at Leith FM are initially inducted as duty managers if suitable and then appointed a senior volunteer as a mentor. All active volunteers must be members and have signed a volunteer contract.

EQUIPMENT

The offer of studio equipment from Kingdom FM proved to be both a bonus and a burden. We had no budget for studio equipment and we must thank Kingdom  for the kit and our engineers for the ability to build us a digital radio station from `bits & pieces`. However the main equipment did not become available until June AFTER the live service launched on May 7th. Great credit must go to the teams who worked with the old RSL equipment and around the inevitably disruptive studio rebuild. Four van trips to Kingdom FM to fetch the kit and special efforts at this time by our build team must be applauded. The
transmission equipment was another challenge. The full budget only became available at end March and our chosen link system from the studio suddenly became unavailable due to manufacturing faults. Thanks to clever work by our engineers we now have an excellent replacement system.

THE PROGRAMME SCHEDULE

The schedule is the most public and also contentious part of a community radio station.
Our RSL experience was the basis of our initial schedule. Weekdays talk focussed community shows with guests are book ended by traditional breakfast and drive time shows. Foreign language plus a Friday football show start our evenings and pre-recorded shows, many commissioned by Leith FM, are a strong feature of our community roots. At the moment our weekend schedule is mostly genre specific shows of a minority nature. We have key commitments as part of our licence, together with other policy decisions made to fulfil our unique Leith vision of community radio, changes to the current schedule need careful planning. We have a file of show proposals and a process of evaluation is under way. A special meeting is planned to review the programme schedule to ensure transparency of the process and engagement of all the volunteers.

MANAGEMENT & PERSONNEL

We have no budget to pay either a studio manager or volunteer manager, and until we have one we have established a system of duty managers and producers supported by technical and administration volunteers to manage Leith FM.
We have a policy of two hours behind the mic support for every hour presenting.

Duty managers are charged by the Executive Committee of Leith FM to be responsible for the broadcast output, the security of the premises and equipment and the health and safety of all people on the premises.
Senior producers are responsible for the creative output of an agreed sector (mostly programmes) of Leith FM scheduling as agreed by Committee policy and in the first instance ensuring the live broadcast output by guaranteeing that suitable presenters are rostered and replaced where necessary.
The technical team maintain a system built originally on little or no budget and when you consider the features & functions available it’s amazing.
The presenters broadcasting on Leith FM can speak for themselves but their professional approach and commitment must be applauded.
In a report of this nature it’s the unseen and unheard background work of the volunteers that needs illuminating. Many do so with disabilities, which are something we can be particular proud off at Leith FM. Many put in long shifts to support not just the broadcast team but also the administration so necessary to the station.

ACHIEVEMENT

This is the best bit where we outline why Leith FM is such a successful  community radio in Scotland. We have built relationships with other Scottish community radio stations…Sunny Govan and Radio Awaz in Glasgow and Black Diamond FM in Midlothian plus Jubilee FM at Queensferry and SHMU in Aberdeen. Our research indicates we are widely respected in the community and have a listenership comparable to the leading commercial broadcaster in the city. Leith FM is what community radio is about.
We maintain regular communication with other community groups in Leith and North Central  Edinburgh.
Our engagement with the sight-impaired volunteers is a beacon of pride.
We have six blind presenters who are broadcasting from the station. Two who do all their own technical operation, and the others who are keen to become trained to do this
Our transmission room on top of Kirkgate House has the capacity to expand into a community media hub for Leith. As the highest building in central Leith line-of-sight communication through our hub is a strong possibility of future developments.

CONSOLIDATION

Our accommodation at Leith Dockers Club (thanks for all the years of support) is cramped and in the longer term unsuitable. It is economic and our landlords are the heart and soul of the community. We look forward to year 2 of our licence period and aspire to bigger more suitable premises with new broadcast equipment to fully meet our vision of volunteer empowerment without compromise.
Our initial computer network was a compromise and  has been rebuilt with new equipment designed for purpose. Our new system has 6 audio processing workstations in production plus 3 business workstations in the office and 3 servers, two being playout machines. The broadcast management suite is also being upgraded to add further functions and will feature added server management to our RAID array storage systems.
We have established a new funding project based on last years successful model (£60k in six months) a sub-committee reporting to the full board. This will endeavour to source £100,000 core funding within 6 months. Core funding is required to pay key managers to ensure the stability of Leith FM. Key staff are Station manager, Volunteer Manager, Finance Manager, Office Manager etc.

We are currently testing software and office procedures to deliver commercial and public agencies sponsorship on-air with evidential logging. This, together with a creative `jingle` team is the necessary pre-cursor to contracts with clients in a professional environment.

We are researching good practice to further develop Leith FM Community Radio. This included visits to Community Stations in Bristol (BCFM) and Wales (GTFM). GTFM is an original pilot station and has 6 years experience.

Stewart Lochhead …

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