Birmingham is set to get two new volunteer-staffed radio stations this month which will put local communities at the heart of their coverage.
South Birmingham Community Radio will air its first broadcast later this week and Rhubarb Radio, which has a focus on the creative industries, has started its studio fit-out and will test broadcasts later this month.
South Birmingham Community radio, set to launch on August 9, will offer a mix of community issues and entertainment to listeners in a 5 km radius stretching across South Birmingham.
The station has a restricted service licence from media regulator Ofcom, which means it will be able to broadcast for one month on 87.7 FM, and then it will switch to internet broadcasting.
South Birmingham Community radio station manager Peni Whelan said: “A big part of our work is to address the issues that matter to the community of South Birmingham.
“We’ll be looking at local news from the bottom up as opposed to the top down.
“It’s about empowering people and getting them in the position to feel they can ask questions to councillors rather than thinking that they come out of prepackaged boxes.”
The station’s star DJ is Rankin’ Roger from Birmingham ska band The Beat, who will host a show on Wednesday nights.
As well as providing information and debate on what’s happening locally, the station sees helping local people into jobs as one of its main objectives.
“We’re hoping to be a gateway to get people into employment. We want to raise the profile of the station so if you say you’ve got work experience at South Birmingham Community Radio, it means something on your CV,” said Ms Whelan.
The station has also enlisted the help of former Radio WM presenter Pat De Whalley, who will present the drivetime show three days a week, as well as other radio professionals who can share their experience with new presenters.
“We’ve got lots of talented people with BBC experience working for us, who are all doing peer mentoring for the up-and-coming talent,” added Ms Whelan.
The station is funded by the Community Network South West scheme set up to help communities affected by the closure of the MG Rover works.
It has ambitions to become the UK’s first solar-powered radio station and sees the August broadcast as a test period to measure how much electricity it uses.
Meanwhile, Rhubarb Radio picked up keys to its base at the Custard Factory in Digbeth last week and is set to start broadcasting test transmissions in mid-August, going fully live in September.
The radio station will be internet-based initially and feature a mix of creative industry content and coverage of community issues in the daytime.
In the evening, the station will link up with live performance venues where it will broadcast gigs from local, national and international artists.
Paul Hadley, project manager at Dynamics Arts, is one of the people behind the project.
“We aim to serve local creative industries, live music venues and musicians by linking into the community. There are lots of things going on that tend to get missed by other local media organisations which are too big. We will be small enough to be able to jump on things pretty quickly.For instance, we’re setting up links with festivals such as Gigbeth and Supersonic to assist local people to get their message out.”
The station will also tap into youth and community groups across the city who will receive training in radio skills so they can broadcast their own programmes.
It may apply for a restricted service licence to broadcast on FM at key times of year as well. The initiative is a collaboration between a range of people including radio industry specialists, bloggers, poets, web designers, musicians and artists.