Designing, researching, planning, running and broadcasting a full-time community radio service requires a high level of professional engagement from the programme makers and developers who work at the station. This includes everyone who makes programme content, or who run its web site, IT and administration systems. But this is especially important for those who help the station interface with its diverse community of listeners and users through it’s on-air content. The range of skills that are required to ensure that a station’s output will excite, engage and entertain listeners, is broad and ever-developing. They include:
- The technical and production skills that ensure services and systems within the station are effective and efficient.
- The programme developers design and creativity skills, that ensure that programmes are engaging and interesting for listeners.
- The management of the people and processes that shape and motivate the talents of the volunteers who deliver the service to established, new and potential listeners – day-after-day.
In the ever demanding and competitive media economy, the radio industry looks to employ content developers who are self-motivated, well informed and who can work creatively, while ensuring that programmes and services are made to a high ethical and technical standard, that follow a recognised standards of conduct, and who are passionate about entertaining and engaging listeners.
DemonFM is a dynamic working community in which the media producers of the future can hone their skills in new ways. Many of the emerging techniques that are now associated with radio production, such as social media, project management and IT/systems management, are borrowed from the development techniques of a wide variety of different parts of the media and communication industries, including software development, social media, virtual communities, and so on. So rather than simply replicate the ethos of a traditional media company, in which producers are employed in vertical organisational hierarchies, with a boss at the top and lots of staff running around at the bottom, DemonFM is a flat organisation with few boundaries, no hierarchy, and a clear sense that to share and collaborate is more important. To use a phrase, DemonFM is both an ‘adhocracy’ while also being a ‘meritocracy’. Which means that volunteers can get involved very easily based on their skill, expertise and talent.
In the traditional media company producers often work on carefully segregated and specified activities in carefully demarcated roles that are given clear boundaries between different tasks. These demarcations often please the boss but few others. In this regard we can often only ever feel like we are turning up to work that day in order to gain a tick-in-the-box of having been in the office. Traditional media organisations therefore cost a lot of money to run, they are difficult to break into, and they are guarded jealously by an established group of people who have spent years trying to climb the ladder of success, and who now want to protect their status and stop other people from climbing up the ladder of success in turn.
In this way DemonFM is a radical upstart. Like many other community media groups, rather than trying to be like the BBC or like so many commercial radio stations, DemonFM is a place and an experience through which new ideas can be developed, tried out and experimented with. DemonFM seeks to challenge convention, the sense that things are done as they are done because they have always been done that way. The spirit of DemonFM is exciting because it is nurturing, innovative and creative.
This doesn’t mean that DemonFM isn’t responsible or that it is a free-for-all. DemonFM is mindful of it’s legal obligations and the responsibility that it has to talk coherently, intelligently and with integrity. DemonFM does, however, work on the basis that it is a self-organising community that sets it’s own standards, encourages people to share and work collaboratively, and which keeps an eye on way to push forward new opportunities so that people who are new to radio broadcasting can have a go at speaking for themselves.
DemonFM has pride in this difference. DemonFM is a champion and supporter of new and innovative ways of working. We are developing working methods that will be standard in the industry in years to come, but which have not yet been devised, tested or practiced in the context of a daily media service. DemonFM therefore offers learners a chance to experiment and develop in ways that simple and basic training doesn’t offer. DemonFM focuses on the shared development of content, in a way as it is exchanged and gifted by a community of volunteers. There is no single ‘boss’ who tells people what to do and when to do it at DemonFM. Instead, there is a strong ethos of shared collaboration, and a strong sense of personal responsibility that runs through each volunteers engagement with the station. At DemonFM we respect each others work, we are committed to communicating transparently and openly, and we offer to help before we criticise.
The skills needed to ensure the successful running of a community radio station in these circumstances, then, are not all found in one person alone. The skills needed to get things done are instead spread across many people in many different ways. Teams are essential for making DemonFM a success. The essential skills that are required to make a community radio service successful are powered-up and developed through teamwork, through collaborative and supportive environments, and most importantly, through the passions of the individuals who believe that community radio can communicate with each member of the audience in a way that is intimate, profound and exciting.
Community radio is a medium that people choose to listen to because it is a very different form of mass media. Community radio is a place where individuals can form long-term relationship with a diverse range of characters, stories, personalities, ideas and lifestyles. Community radio’s diversity of service provision, relative low production costs, and level of production flexibility, all ensure that community radio is a vibrant test-bed for creative production ideas, a dynamic and lively forum for civic and social expression, and a place that can represent different moods and sentiments locally in our shared lives. Through music, speech, news, drama, comedy and the many other forms of programme making, community radio is a broad window onto the world of ideas, events and attitudes.
Community radio is at it’s best when it is razor sharp and relevent, while pushing listeners experiences and tastes in subtle and important ways. But community radio is not just about being slick and smooth. Community radio gives new voices a much needed opportunity to break-out and to get themselves heard for the first time. So training and personal development play a big part in the community radio story. The challenge for community radio is to shift between the local experience of a stations listeners, where the world-views of individuals are brought to life in a supportive and celebratory way. But community radio also has the chance to challenge and push the perceptions of listeners. To take listeners on a journey through an every changing horizon of new experiences, new ideas and new ways of communicating with audiences. These ideas will change over time. Some will work well, and others will remain at the experimental stage. One thing is certain in the community radio sector, however, nothing ever stands still, everything changes constantly – sometimes incrementally, sometimes suddenly, but always passionately.
The purpose of this module is to develop your skills as a radio producer, and to explore the creative potential of radio as a medium of mass communication. You will be presented with a series of challenges that will test and shape:
- Your aptitude for creative production work
- Your understanding of systems, technologies and organisations used in the creative process
- Your ability to work with a wide range of people in a systematic, strategic and well organised manner.
In undertaking study and practical activities on this module, you will be demonstrating that you can think about, design, analyse and adapt the production processes of radio for the purpose of entertaining and engaging an audience of listeners, while also showing that you can face-up to a broad range of difficult problems and issues, and thus find pragmatic and workable solutions to them.
When working on this module you will be asked to develop and design content for DemonFM that serves the Creative Communities of Leicester. DemonFM’s service runs twenty-four hours each day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year for five years, and offers an alternative radio service that is made and produced by the young people of Leicester, and supported by De Montfort University and De Montfort Students Union.