Phonic FM year two report to Ofcom

Phonic FM year two report to Ofcom

Phonic FM year two report to Ofcom

Phonic FM – Annual Report to OFCOM for the period February 2009 – March 2010

This is a summary of  the annual report submitted to OFCOM during June 2010. Each answer is prefaced by the relevant sections from the promise of performance given by Exeter Community Radio Ltd before the commencement of broadcasting in February 2008.

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.
On average Phonic FM broadcasts ‘live’ programming for 14 hours a day .Since the station does not buy in content or share it with other stations the original output may be calculated as averaging 392 hours per calendar month.

During an average week approximately 18 per cent of the station’s 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.

It has a growing variety of programming, much of which is aimed at niche markets within the perceived community and the arts communities it seeks to serve. Most, but not all, of the training that has been offered has a very hands on emphasis.

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 interest programming.

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 encouraged and allowed increased access to the arts and arts-related material. We are developing 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. The station also has the capacity to take output from other performance spaces in the building in which we are located.

Specialist programming has included support for live theatre, poetry, spoken word, comedy, health, community issues, disability matters and minority interest musical genres. We have utilised other facilities available to us to produce (within a 90 minute timeframe) three 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 programme controller has been offered new formats and ideas for shows which the station seeks to develop and take to air.

The age range of presenters is from 14 to 72.

The station will feature review and discussion programmes with the facility for

listeners to telephone email, text or phone the studio and to o write in. Some programmes feature live phone-ins, providing the audience with access to immediate on-air discussion.

There is a dedicated e mail address and 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 air.

There are opportunities for the volunteers to produce shows expressing their views (within station guidelines). There are evaluation/feedback sheets enabling the volunteers to express their opinion about the station. There are regular meetings between the presenters 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 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 facility. The main opportunities for evaluation and feedback have been provided through an open meeting, discussion with local arts groups through CAPE a local forum of arts professionals which meets four times a year hosted by the City Council and use of the forum on the station’s website. The Company has increased the number of directors by three to accommodate increased representation and diversification.

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.

In-house training is available for all volunteers wanting to produce and present shows. This consists 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. Presenters are actively encouraged to self-produce trails for their shows using the in-house facilities available.

Training has been offered on a regular basis both to existing and new presenters. We have embedded ourselves with Exeter College. We are an accredited award-bearing centre and have negotiated with local schools to offer joint use of the media centre, recording studio and radio station. As part of an ongoing programme of school summer holiday activities we ran a three day course which produced drop ins and show promos, and this was fully subscribed and will be extended during the next reporting year. We also increased the work that we undertake with both the statutory and volunteer groups to widen the nature of the station output. During the reporting year this included a series of six programmes written and produced by a group of pupils in a local exclusion unit. In addition after the broadcast of a programme made by a person with locked in syndrome, his shows have been featured on a monthly basis. He records them by use of a voice synthesiser.

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 meetings.

Phonic will participate in community events, including through the use of outside broadcasts.

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, and  for direct access to presenters. It also has text facilities as well as direct to air phone lines. The station has held its two public open meetings during the reporting year. The station also utilises a face book page and provides a twitter forum.

The number of active involvements with the local arts community has increased during our second year on-air. We were actively involved in a day of programming for International Women’s Day and been an active media partner with various festivals held in and around the City such as the Exeter Summer Festival and the Vibraphonic Festival. We have also actively followed links created by the City Council led CAPE group and encouraged participation in Arts events not necessarily within our transmission area.

Good examples of this activity have been recording as live input at the Sidmouth International Folk week, participation in other festivals such as Budstock, Chagstock and the Teignmouth International Jazz Festival.

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, as will the section above. We believe that we have become the first port of call” for many smaller organisations seeking to publicise events and activities. This has not only been limited to events taking place within our broadcast area, but there has been significant evidence that events like the Ashburton Blues Festival, Bradninch Festival and Arts in Haldon Forest see the potential of having direct access to the population of Exeter as a potential audience. Indeed at times it has been difficult to accommodate all the groups that have asked to be involved, especially as some of them, for example the North Devon Festival, are remote from our broadcast area. We are aiming to further broaden the scope and width of these support activities during the forthcoming year having acquired at the end of the reporting period the means to broadcast remotely from their sites.

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 community.

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.

During the reporting year the Steering Group has met with the company directors and given advice with regard to the future direction of the station. At the end of the year some restructuring of the organisation took place.

The Board has convened regularly and as a result of suggestions from the steering group has increased its membership to better represent the volunteers who work on the station.

The complaints procedure is published on the website during the reporting year there were three issues, all concerning relationships with the City Council which were raised and dealt with without recourse to external arbitration.

As a collective we have approximately 160 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 are a group of about 20 who 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 reporting year in question has been a transitional one, since many of the functions ascribed in the promise to performance have in the light of experience been subsumed by more direct access to direct arts partners through other forums, since several presenters and directors attend meetings held externally and provide useful feedback through formal and informal reporting  Nonetheless the steering group continues to meet with the board, and two specific (and newly appointed) board members have assumed direct responsibility for direct liaison with the presenter and other interested parties.
The website continues to be an excellent source and forum for further interaction.

Significant achievements during the reporting year has increased the scope and coverage of arts related issues during the reporting year, and has made great strides in providing access for a wide range of groups throughout the City who might not otherwise have direct access to media. In addition to social inclusion programming noted above the station has provided opportunities for disabled and wheelchair users (the wheelie saying something programme), health and wellbeing, poetry and spoken word and provided support for a number of small scale arts initiatives in and around the City.

It was gratifying to have our efforts praised by an article in the Times online for providing real ‘alternative’ programming (Christian Brook 21st December 2009)

It is gratifying that our increasingly cordial relationship with the City Council (though not entirely without occasional ‘blips’) has resulted in them according us partnership status for a whole range of cultural activities, which has also helped in publicising the station.

Our website continues to attract an ever growing number of unique ‘hits’ during the course of a month, and there is evidence that it provides a highly valued service.

If there are aspects of this report that you would like to discuss please get in touch with the chairman, Dr David Treharne or treasurer, Patrick Cunningham by contacting them at