Phonic FM Year One Ofcom Report
This is a summary of the report sent to OFCOM regarding the operation of Phonic.fm during the period February 2008- March 2009. Each section is prefaced by the commitments that the Board of Phonic.fm made as a ‘promise’ of performance’ and the report relates specifically to each. The report, and this summary were was written by two members of the Board of Exeter Community Radio which trades as Phonic.fm. The Board willingly acknowledges the funding and contributions that it has received from various funding bodies during the course of the year.
Character of service
Phonic FM will broadcast a range of arts and community-based programming for the Citizens of Exeter. The station will help promote the cultural vibrancy of the city and strengthen community links within it, as well as offer unique educational and training opportunities for a broad range of participants.
Phonic FM will provide radio programming with an emphasis on specialist music and coverage of the arts. This will be through a mixture of DJ-based music-led programming, offering a range of music not covered by other local stations, and speech-led programmes;
• In the first year, output will typically comprise 90% music and 10% speech (‘speech’ excludes programme/promotional trails). In future years the speech output will be expanded.
• Music output will feature a range of styles such as jazz, world, electronic, hip-hop, urban, rock, folk and contemporary classical.
• Speech output will feature a variety of programmes, such as review and preview shows, discussion programmes on local events and issues, interviews, news features, what’s ons and community information. It will include programmes presented both by artists/arts professionals and informed amateurs which will focus on coverage of the arts.
• Output will be broadcast in English. Also, due to the nature of the music genres, a significant minority of other community languages may feature in the vocal music played.
• The service will typically be live for at least 6 hours per day on weekday’s and13 hours per day on weekends. (Live programming may include pre-recorded inserts, if applicable)
On average Phonic FM has broadcast ‘live’ programming for 12 hours a day since July 2008, though rather less in the period from February 2008 to July 2008 when we were broadcasting from temporary studios.
Since the station does not ‘buy in’ content or share it with other stations the original output may be calculated as averaging 360 hours per calendar month.
During an average week approximately 15% of the stations ‘daytime’ output (assuming this as the period 0800 to 1800) is speech based, though this is not spread equally across the week.
All output has been in English.
Key commitments: Social gain objectives (a) The provision of sound broadcasting services to individuals who are otherwise underserved.
Phonic FM will target listeners who are keen to hear alternative arts and local
There will also be specialist programmes of interest to those who feel
excluded from mainstream broadcasting, such as the local BME population
and young people.
Phonic FM, by means of its output and website, has allowed increased access to the arts and arts-related material. We have benefitted since the move to our new permanent studio from the ability to broadcast live and ‘as live’ music output due to collaboration with Sound Gallery music recording studio which is adjacent to our own studios.
Specialist programming has included support for live theatre, poetry, spoken word, comedy, health, community issues and minority interest musical genres. We have utilised other facilities available to us to produce (within a 90 minute timeframe) 3 minute films which have been downloaded onto a website. We co-operated with a local theatre company to produce and broadcast a comedy show for a group of school excluded pupils and have been actively involved in the local ‘Respect’ Festival.
The age range of presenters is from 14 to 72.
“(b) the facilitation of discussion and the expression of opinion”
• The station will feature review and discussion programmes with the facility for
listeners to telephone email or write in. Some programmes will feature live
phone-ins, providing the audience with access to immediate on-air discussion.
• There will be a forum on the station’s website with the facility for people to
request music, provide topics for discussion and express opinions on and off
• There will be opportunities for the volunteers to produce shows expressing
their views (within station guidelines). There will also be evaluation/feedback
sheets enabling the volunteers to express their opinion about the station.
These will be considered during the regular meetings between the station
manager and the directors.
The station has provided regular opportunities to discuss issues of local, national and international relevance and have provided facilities where there have been opportunities for immediate on-air interaction. The station website HYPERLINK “http://www.phonic.fm” www.phonic.fm provides a facility for the interchange of views and ideas about programme content and there has been a steady stream of requests for information and music, often directed at the HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com facility. The main opportunities for evaluation and feedback have been provided through an open meeting, steering group meetings and use of the forum on the station’s website. The Company has increased the number of Directors to accommodate increased representation.
“(c) the provision (whether by means of programmes included in the service or
otherwise) or education or training to individuals not employed by the person
providing the service”
• There will be in-house training for all volunteers wanting to produce and
present shows. This will consist of hands-on use of studio equipment in the
training and off-air production studio and observation, with the possibility of
shadowing shows being broadcast.
• Links with Exeter College Media department have been established and
opportunities to take accredited training modules directly linked to the station
will be on offer. There will also be courses run in conjunction with the Media
Centre at the Exeter Phoenix; it is envisaged that there will be around 10-15
in-house training places available per month with the possibility of more as the
Training has been offered on a regular basis both to existing and new presenters. We have been hampered during the first year of operation by broadcasting for the first six months of output from temporary studios whilst the permanent facilities were being constructed. Effectively this has meant that initial training has had to concentrate on familiarisation with the more complex nature of these new facilities. Meanwhile we have been embedding ourselves with Exeter College, who we intend to run accredited courses in conjunction with from September 2010. In the meantime we have become an accredited award-bearing centre and are negotiating with local schools to offer joint use of the media centre, recording studio and radio station. We are also increasing the work that we undertake with both the statutory and volunteer groups to widen the nature of the station output.
“(d) the better understanding of the particular community and the strengthening of the links within it”
• The station will provide a platform for local arts, community and media groups.
• The station will strengthen links with the local community through
communication and accessibility making itself available to the local community
through a variety of means, including the website, email, telephone and open
• Phonic will participate in community events, including through the use of
The station not only provides an on-air platform for news, reviews and information on arts and community events but the website does this as well, with articles on the constantly updated home and news pages.
The website hosts a message board Forum and also gives details of contact phone numbers and two email addresses for listeners to use – HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com and HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com, for direct access to presenters. The station held its first public Open Meeting in January 2009.
The station has participated in a number of community events in its first year, such as the International Women’s Day and been a media partner with various festivals, such as the Exeter Summer Festival and the Vibraphonic Festival.
Additional social gain objectives:
• The station will provide an important local outlet for raising the profile of the
arts and publicising local festivals and events.
• Through their involvement at the station, volunteers will be provided with firsthand
radio experience and many transferable skills to further their employability and social skills.
A study of the website content will give a general indication of success with this commitment. The station has become a media partner for the Vibraphonic, summer and autumn festivals within the City as well as attracting interest from a wide range of organisations and events. Thus there has been wide coverage of performance arts, cinema and spoken word, as well as other events like the Sidmouth Folk Festival, North Devon Festival and Ashburton Blues Festival which lie outside its immediate broadcast area. Indeed there has at times been considerable pressure on our resources in trying to service the needs of client groups who wish to avail themselves of opportunities to address directly their perceived target audiences.
We are aiming to further broaden the scope and width of experience by increasing the facilities available for off-air activities.
Access and participation
Community Radio Order 2004: “It is a characteristic of every community radio service that members of the community it is intended to serve are given opportunities to participate in the operation and management of the service.”
• The station aims to operate in partnership with the community and will build on
its previous RSL experience to increase participation. Access may be gained
through the steering group, chosen to be representative of the whole
• The anticipated number of volunteers involved in the first year is 130-150,
increasing to around 200 in subsequent years. Volunteers will have access to
the station’s second studio for training and production. The station will also
utilise its links with training providers such as Exeter College and the Exeter
Phoenix Media Centre to offer further opportunities.
• Access to the facilities will be available by contacting the station through the
website, by email, telephone, writing, through Exeter College, contact through
the steering group and open meetings. The availability of the facilities will be
publicised and the use of these training facilities will not be exclusive to this
station’s volunteers and members, although priority will be given to them.
A Steering Group has been established and effectively managed by a chair who is not a director of the company. This group has met regularly with the company directors and given advice with regard to the future direction of the station.
The Board has met regularly and has increased its membership to better represent the volunteers who work on the station.
The complaints procedure is published on the website .Three significant complaints have been satisfactorily dealt with during the course of the first year without recourse to any external action.
The message board Forum on the website has proved to be a popular platform for debate and feedback.
As a collective we have approximately 150 active volunteers, with a further 30 or so who for one reason or another (usually travel) are currently inactive. It’s difficult to be precise about time commitment with a group that large, but those with specific allocated roles outside simply presenting, a group of about 20 volunteers give between 10 and 20 hours a week fulfilling roles from editing and pre-recording to news gathering, administration and office work. Many of them multi-task fulfilling several roles such as studio maintenance and publicity, web site design and programme making.
The Directors were also asked to compile a list of significant achievements during the period under consideration. These are reported below;
The growing diversity of output. It has been pleasing that we have been able to increase the speech-based sector of output in a number of diverse ways which have included not only external input, but also the growth of in-house projects like the film-making challenge and the ability to broadcast live and as-live sessions in conjunction with the adjacent recording studio.
The inclusion of over 150 volunteers with a diverse set of interests and skills and a wealth of specialist knowledge to impart to listeners. We have also facilitated provision for a number of otherwise ‘excluded’ groups and individuals.
The enthusiasm shown by the target audience for what we are trying to achieve has further inspired and energised the efforts of all those involved in the station.
If you wish to get further details about any elements of this report we would be glad to discuss them with you.
Dr David Treharne and Patrick Cunningham
On behalf of the Phonic.fm Board