Bedfordshire considers importance of community media in the time of Covid-19

Fri 10 July, 2020
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Experts from the University of Bedfordshire have been discussing the future of community media and its importance following the Covid-19 outbreak and recently announced cuts to BBC regional media.

Dr Janey Gordon, Radio LaB founder, and Terry Lee, Senior Tutor in Radio and Audio took part in UNESCO’s ‘Global Dialogues on Community Media in the Post-Pandemic World’ virtual panel.

The panel discussed the relevance of community media and the impact it can have on audiences during these uncertain times.

Terry, who is also the coordinator of award-winning community station Radio LaB said: “I have worked in UK community radio for my entire professional life, and I have seen how it can transform lives, entertain communities and educate listeners”.

UNESCO’s online debate took place with the backdrop of the BBC announcing cuts and cancellations to their regional TV news and current affairs shows and departments, as well as local radio and online news teams – an estimated loss of 450 jobs.

Dr Lawrie Hallett, Senior Lecturer in Radio and Journalism and former Ofcom Radio Regulator said: “Local radio has always been the ‘poor relation’ in terms of wider BBC radio output. The original concept of BBC local radio was as a network of highly individual stations, each reflecting the unique nature of its local target audience. Unfortunately, for many years there has been a trend towards less specialised local output.”

He continued: “Well run community radio services can fill the gaps left as a result, often having very strong and diverse links with the community they are there to serve, meaning they can reflect the needs of that community effectively”.

Radio LaB, the fully Ofcom licensed radio station based on the University’s Luton Campus, has been an avid proponent of community engagement, having ran campaigns including the Vesper House Lunch Club with Age Concern in Luton; Drug Driving Prevention with Luton Council and Smart Safe and an annual opportunity for Luton Sixth Form Students to ‘takeover’ the airwaves.

 

Terry believes the Covid-19 lockdown has given opportunities to reflect on the future of the station’s community output:

Throughout lockdown we have been fortunate to have hosts recording shows from home and sending them in, so we’ve still had continuous programming going out. The plan now going forward for the next year is to get more voices from the community on air, to be more inclusive and encourage diverse perspectives and personalities.

Dr Hallett, also a trustee of Future Projects in Norwich, said: “The Covid-19 emergency has had some real benefits for community radio in terms of building its profile as a really useful local media resource.

“I think that the sector now has an opportunity to really cement its reputation as an intrinsic part of local media, reaching audiences that other broadcasters may not be equipped to serve”.

The virtual UNESCO panel can be watched again via Youtube and the player below.

Bedfordshire’s School of Culture and Communications has a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including Radio & Audio, Sports TV Production, Broadcast Journalism and Media, Marketing & Public Relations. Further information about these courses and many more can be found here.

 

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