Over the least five years there has been a sharp increase of community radio stations in the UK. Flashback to December 2008 and in the Borders town of Galasheils TD1 Radio was about to begin broadcasting. David Henderson who founded and runs the station explains what it was like in those early days, the stresses and strains it can bring and what the plans are for the future.
Why did you decide to start a community radio station?
There was not enough listening choice in the area. If you go to most other areas there are several local commercial stations you can listen to. Here in the Borders we have just one, with very little local output. Even the local BBC opt-outs have suffered cut backs too, with all the local programming being scrapped, in favour of just six minute news bulletins scattered throughout the day.
There is so much talent in the area that was being missed because existing local services just weren’t giving them airtime due to corporate cutbacks and networking. I also wanted to give something back to the area – it’s often overlooked and “the Borders doesn’t matter” seems to be the opinion of many!
Were you impressed with the help from the local community?
Yes and no is the short answer!
The longer answer is a few people and organisations have been really supportive and helpful. Others talk the talk, but when it comes down to walking the walk – they fail to deliver! A lot of people don’t really understand community radio and think, “Radio – that means money!” Sadly that isn’t the case where community radio is concerned.
Scottish Borders Council has been great and has often pointed us in the right direction. We’ve also had a huge amount of support from Rob Nicholson and The Bridge, who support the voluntary and community sector in the Borders. Without that help and support there’s no doubt we’d not have achieved nearly as much.
What’s been the most challenging part of the project so far?
Getting premises; despite there being lots of empty shops and offices in Galashiels, nothing has really been suitable. It’s either been too big or too small or just too expensive. Sorting out a transmitter site has also been difficult – we waited almost six months for a response to letters we’d sent to enquire about using space on a local mast only to be told there was no concession for community radio. We’d have to pay the full market rate which was about £6000 per year – money that we simply couldn’t afford.
The TD1 Radio studios
What are your stand out high points of running TD1 Radio?
The buzz that you get from an outside broadcast is amazing. Meeting people from the local community is great too and hearing the other presenters enjoying themselves as well makes it all worth while.
We have very little in the way of resources to produce programmes – yet over the last five years while we’ve been broadcasting online, there has been some superb radio created. It just goes to show that you don’t need a budget of thousands of pounds to produce great radio – it happens with a hell of a lot of dedication and enthusiasm from those making the programmes.
Another very proud moment was when the local commercial station decided to axe a very popular Sunday night traditional music programme, in favour of broadcasting a networked show from Glasgow. The presenter called me up and we basically agreed there and then, in the space of a few minutes, that we would be happy to take over the traditional programme.
Everything went according to plan and the it ended one week on commercial radio and started the following week at exactly the same time on TD1 Radio. We had a bit of programme shuffling to do, but it was a welcome addition to our schedule where it has remained ever since.
Looking to the future, what new directions will you be taking over the next few years?
First and foremost, we’ll be moving to broadcasting on FM, which means that as well as hearing us online, you can also tune in on any normal radio alongside existing BBC and commercial radio services. This is a major boost for us and also the culmination of about six years hard work. Although we’ve tried to operate our online service as though we were on FM, it will be a new level and experience for most of the volunteers involved.
Who knows what else will come out of our service being on FM… only time will tell.
Ruairidh Tait & Steve Paterson looking surprisingly awake at the end of a 52 hour marathon broadcast!
What do you need to put these ideas into practice?
More volunteers – we can’t achieve the full level of service promised to Ofcom with the number we presently have. To that end, we’ll be advertising for more people to join us to work both on air and behind-the-scenes.
We also need to move to new premises, our current studio is not suitable for us to use as a base for FM broadcasting. Neither of these can happen without money either, so we’ll need funding to purchase new equipment to make the dream a reality.
Is there any new technology that’s getting you excited at the minute?
Once our new transmitter arrives and it is commissioned into service that will be exciting for everyone. I’ve also been looking at what broadcast software to use – there are lots of programs out there for radio stations – it’s a case of finding a suitable one at a suitable price.
How can people help your project to get to the next stage?
Being a voluntary, non-profit organisation we rely on volunteers to keep us on the air. Anyone that’s interested in being on air, or working behind the scenes is welcome to get in touch. Experience is not necessary either – as we offer full training.
Secondly, we rely on donations from the public and funding from organisations that support the type of work we do. We’ll happily accept monetary donations or bits of equipment that might be useful to us, together with any unwanted CDs or vinyl records.
If you’re involved with a body that can help fund community radio we’d love to hear from you too!
For more information and for details of how to get in touch with TD1 radio you can visit their website here.