A dozen new radio stations could spring up in Wigan after community media organisation lands licence from Ofcom
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The organisation is a new, not-for-profit community interest company led by resident social enterprise leaders of Arts At The Mill CIC – known locally as The Old Courts – and backed by local and community radio services.
For many years, it has been difficult for community and grassroots groups to get onto radio because of the high cost and scarce availability of FM frequencies.
Many broadcasters have instead turned to internet-only community radio services which are thriving but represent only a small percentage of total radio listeners.
With 67 per cent of the population tuning into digital radio every week, small-scale DAB represents a more affordable opportunity for broadcasters to reach a high percentage of the population across Wigan and St Helens.
The successful bid proposes to operate the Wigan Small-Scale (SSDAB) multiplex for community benefit, reinvest into the management of the SSDAB multiplex and into supporting the development of local and community radio in the area.
It is hoped that this will increase the amount of volunteering, skills, and social impact opportunities available for people in both boroughs.
Director Dave Jenkins said: “We are delighted to receive this news from Ofcom.
"The development of more local and community radio means more jobs, volunteering and creative opportunities for residents and more audiences for local artists, creatives, businesses, and non-profits.
"Making digital radio more accessible for all is important, and doing it in a way where profits are reinvested into the local area means that broadcasters and listeners Wigan and St Helens will benefit long-term.”
The licence will also promise an increase in the number of community and local stations coming from and focused on these areas.
The proposal outlines how SSDAB will also platform a variety of regional and national radio stations, such as Gaydio, Chris Country, Cosoro Radio and Asian Sound and Unsigned Radio.
The approach to supporting local has been met with praise from people and organisations in the community who already run internet-only stations and want to expand onto DAB, or who are keen to start something new in their local area.
Anthony Rhodes from Countywide Radio (also known as Wigan FM) said: “Wigan and St Helens have never had a truly community-based radio station and we at Countywide Radio now have the opportunity, with SSDAB to do exactly that.
"Thanks goes to the team behind this and The Old Courts, whose drive and enthusiasm matches our own.
"We will be able to offer entertainment, information and education in a massive way, that internet radio could never provide.”
James, from Bamalam CIC added: “We’re delighted to see the hard work the team at The Old Courts is putting in is paying off and leaning into radio.
“It is often overlooked, when in actual fact it is the most powerful, through just words we paint a picture in the minds of our listeners and often, radio is switched on when no one else is around to listen or talk to.
"Now with the brand new SSDAB coming to the community, we have a chance to engage with people across the borough in a whole new way”