The future of college radio

October 13th, 2004 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

As I mentioned in my piece on podcasting, I gave a talk to the Radio Society in Galway while I was home, looking at the future of college radio. I include my notes below. They’re in rather abbreviated form, but should give an idea of what I covered.

The future of college radio

  1. The past
    • Brief history of college radio in Ireland / USA / elsewhere
      • How Flirt FM is funded (student fee). Mention that this was not always the case, and may not always continue.
    • The two models of community radio in Ireland

      [Note: The features listed below are examples, preliminary, and somewhat simplistic. I hope to work on better defining the categories at a later point, and that talk/paper should be available at/through funferal.org, or by request by email]

      • The community development model
        • Providing quality programming to target audience is the priority
        • In college radio, give students the programming they should be listening to
        • Linked to public service model of broadcasting
        • Communities are improved through access to a ‘full’ range of programming about them, such as documentaries and feature interviews, and localised versions of standard types and topics.
      • The radical inclusive model (the Flirt FM model [I may retitle this the Galway model, given that one of the best known examples internationally is Margaretta D’Arcy’s Radio Pirate Woman])
        • Equal access to airtime for everyone as the priority.
        • Role of station is to facilitate people in creating themselves through their broadcasting
        • Communities create and define themselves through expressing themselves on air.
    • Innovations in the past (where college radio has been ahead of others)
      • SMSs
      • Programme styles
      • Website, email address
  2. Perennial issues for college radio
    • Inclusivity vs expertisation – models of community radio. Positioning oneself in the debate. An ongoing struggle. Not necessarily binary.
    • Volunteerism
    • Finance. Refer back to Flirt FM funding
    • Space of resistance? Politicization?
  3. What stays the same
    • People, stories and interviews
      • Lorelei Harris, Dreaming of Fat Men
      • TG4 interview with man in his 80s, about his life and thoughts. Nothing remarkable, just drawing him out and getting him to express himself.
    • Identification and selection of cultural items
      • Music, a/v, fashion
      • not just critics and DJs
    • College/Student news service
  4. Main challenges/opportunities of the future
    • Digital Radio. DAB.
    • File-sharing, iPod as 21st century walkman
      • And MS’s ‘Radio without DJ chatter’ service
      • how does this speak to how radio is understood, and what its role will become?
    • Webcasting [Drawing in large part on the paper by David Park at AoIR 2004 here]
      • re-envisioning the audience
      • Good and bad impact for localism and dynamism of station
        • Alumns continue to listen. Want station to stay the same. Help prevent pressue to standardise (this is more an American issue, I think) as otherwise they might as well listen to a station where they now are
        • But unique thing about college radio is rapid cultural change, as personnel change every 2.5-3 years. Former students and volunteers shouldn’t have too much sway, or they can cause calcification, and cause station to stay as they had it, not move with student body.
        • Reference increasing Dance music on Flirt FM over time.
      • Funding from Paypal donations – change in who is supporting the station
      • Even more pressure from the ‘always-on’ model
      • Is it OK not to use this outlet?
      • Are there other innovative technologies that can be adopted?
    • WiFi, alternative outlets
      • Change from broadcast model? Multi-directional/2-directional?
      • Change from limited number of outlets to lots of outlets?
      • Multi-media (opportunity and challenge)

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