Start a Community Radio Station
Community radio is a type of radio service that caters to the interests of a certain area, broadcasting material that is popular to a local audience but is overlooked by more powerful broadcast groups.
Modern-day community radio stations often serve their listeners by offering a variety of Programme that are not necessarily catered for by larger corporate radio stations. Community radio outlets will carry information programming geared toward the local area. Community stations and pirate stations (where they are tolerated) can be valuable assets for a region. Community radio stations are aligned with communities rather than corporations.
Why Community Radio?
Commercial and public stations do not represent community. Trust the people who look, act, sound like you. Few barriers to women’s access, unlike other Mobile/Internet. Community radio enjoying renewed interest around the world. Huge penetration and access base (98% in Nigeria) Cost effective.
What is FM transmission?
FM technology is ideal for broadcasting in a local area at a relatively low cost.
FM is known as a ‘line of sight’ radio signal. This means that the signal from the transmitter and antennae is clearest if the receiver is within the sight of the antennae. If the terrain is flat the signal will be strong at close range and travel out with decreasing clarity. If the terrain is hilly, the hills will tend to block the signal create what are known as shadows in which is reception is unclear or not audible at all. The strength of transmission (also known as ERP or effective radiated power) depends on various factors: the power and quality of the transmitter and the number and height of the antennae.
In general, the higher the antennae, the stronger the signal. Most antennae are mounted on a tower Antennae can be uni- or Omni-directional, meaning that they can send signals in a specific (uni) direction or to all (Omni) directions. Most small FMs use two or four Omni-directional antenna elements. Adding more elements will increase the strength of the signal.
Small local FM radios generally use a transmitter with power in the range of 30 to 500 watts, although power of 1000 or even higher is also possible. The cost of the transmitter increases with the power. In an area without major geographic barriers like hills or mountains, a 100-watt transmitter will provide a strong signal in a 20-kilometre radius. The transmitter and the antennae are linked using special coaxial cable which is expensive, meaning that the distance from one to the other is an important consideration.
How do audio studios function?
All FM radios have some sort of studio system used for broadcasting and production of radio programming. The number of rooms, the type of equipment and the applications vary depending on needs and budgets.
Broadcasting refers to mixing sound from various sources like microphone or cassette and sending the sounds to the transmitter and the antenna elements to go out on FM to the listeners.
Production refers to mixing sound from various sources and putting them onto a format like cassette or mini disk for broadcast at a later time.
The most basic set-up is one studio that is used both for on-air broadcasting and also for off-air production. Within this basic set-up there are two options: 1) the studio can be all in one room; or 2) it can be separated into two separate rooms with a window in-between with one room, the control room housing the main studio equipment and the second room, the studio room, with only microphones and a talk back system used to communicate with the control room.
In more sophisticated set-ups, an FM radio will have separate studios for broadcasting and production.
Studio set-ups vary significantly. They can be very simple or very complex. Equipment also varies, ranging from inexpensive consumer products linked together in a very simple configuration or expensive professional equipment linked in a complex network.
With the advent of digital technologies, most studios use a combination of traditional analogue equipment and newer digital technologies. For example, most have at least some digital components, like a CD player, used in tandem with analaogue equipment like cassette player/recorders; others use a lot of digital equipment, including computers, mini disc and digital mixers. In general, analogue and digital equipment can be used together.
In many cases, digital components have replaced similar analogue equipment. For example, CD is replacing records, mini disc and to a lesser extent DAT, is replacing cassette and open 1/4 inch tape recorders, also known as spool. The most important addition of digital technologies is the computer, used primarily for digital editing and which can complement or replace many pieces of equipment.
How is a good location chosen?
Choosing locations for studios and transmission systems are very important. Poor choices can mean ineffective signals, low community participation and/or costly relocations in the future.
In general the best choice for a transmitter and antennae is a high location allowing for maximum geographic coverage. In any area, but especially in flat ones, natural height can be augmented by using a tower to mount the antennae. Towers can generally be manufactured locally.
In general, the best choice for a studio is an accessible one that will allow for easy transportation and maximum participation.
The easiest and most cost-effective scenario is to keep the studios and the transmission system together in the same location. The farther away the two are from each other the more expensive the set-up will be; this includes using a high tower for the antennae.
It is possible to separate studio and transmission locations, but the technology, consisting of a cclosed transmission and reception system known as a STL or studio to transmitter link, is very expensive,
How important is the broadcast equipment
Broadcast equipment needs to be properly researched and analysed as to its appropriateness to local contexts. While all broadcast components are professional pieces of equipment, the quality and price varies from one supplier to the next. In South Asia, community radio stations are using broadcast equipment manufactured by companies in China, Italy, South Africa and India.
Community Radio Set Eligibility
Following Groups can establish community Radio in Nigeria :
i) ‘Non-profit’ organizations like civil Society and voluntary organizations registered under the societies act and having a proven record of at least three years of service to the local community at the time of application.
ii) State Agricultural Universities
iii) Well established educational institutions