Community radio is Australia’s largest radio sector. There are more community radio stations than commercial stations, and more than ABC and SBS radio combined. In the field of community radio, Australia is a world leader.
Community broadcasters are not-for-profit and are community owned. The major difference between community broadcasting and the other sectors is community involvement in the management, programming and broadcasting of the stations. They are supported by their members, listeners and local communities. Free from commercial and political control, community radio can be a place for innovation in broadcasting.
‘Community’ can be geographically defined, or a community of interest (e.g. ethnic, educational, religious). For 5MBS, this is geographically defined and is essentially the area of metropolitan Adelaide. In addition, the 5MBS website includes a ‘streaming’ service and a ‘listen-on-demand’ facility making program content easily accessible to listeners around the world.
Community radio is a very diverse sector, so no two stations sound alike. Community radio listeners like community media for many reasons including:
- specialist music programs
- local news and information
- unique programs they cannot find elsewhere
- their focus on Australian music and local artists
- the presenters sound like everyday people.
Much of the diversity comes from the wide ranging interests of a station’s group of volunteer radio presenters, which gives rise to the question of ‘audience driven’ or ‘presenter driven’ programming.
Generally, most community stations come to a compromise between the two that draws on the richness of its people with their expertise in a special subject/s.
5MBS is subject to all laws set out in the Broadcasting Services Act of 1992 pertinent to a community broadcaster. The Act determines what a community broadcaster is and key elements of how it must operate to fulfil its license conditions. The regulatory body is the Australian Communications Media Authority (ACMA). The regulations and guidelines are available from the ACMA website. 5MBS submits a license renewal application to ACMA every five years. The station is required by law to keep an audio record of everything that goes to air, and keep it for six weeks.
This is called ‘logging’ and serves as evidence in case of complaints and prosecutions.
Operations at 5MBS are based on self-regulation in the first instance, guided by the Community Radio Codes of Practice developed by the sector’s peak body, the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA), and registered with ACMA. The Codes of Practice can be found on the CBAA website.
5MBS was first formed in 1995 as part of Radio Adelaide and broadcast from Radio Adelaide’s studios from 1995 to 2001. A permanent license to broadcast on the FM band (then 92.7fm, now 99.9fm) was granted by ACMA in 2001 and 5MBS established its own studios. The studios are currently located at 4A River Street, Hindmarsh.
The station transmits twenty-four hours each day with music of broad appeal to our listener base.
5MBS is a specialist music radio station. The station’s promotional catch-phrase is ‘Adelaide’s Fine Music Station’, under which classical, jazz, blues and world music, in all their many forms and styles, are broadcast. The latest programming format can be seen by reference to the current week-view ‘Program Grid’.
- is a community radio station operated by volunteers striving for excellence in broadcasting
- provides a safe and harmonious work environment where professional behaviour and respect
- for all volunteers and staff is paramount (see the 5MBS Volunteer Agreement)
- celebrates and supports diversity (see the 5MBS Diversity Policy)
- nurtures its volunteer base by providing training
- provides a window on Adelaide to the world
- acknowledges we broadcast from Kaurna (Gar-nah) land.
Activities at 5MBS are guided by a Board of Directors elected annually from the Association’s membership, and managed by the Station Manager with the assistance of a number of volunteer co-ordinators. An overview of the station’s organisational structure can be obtained from the 5MBS Organisation Chart.
Within this chart, the areas of ‘Volunteer Co-ordination’ and ‘Programming and Standards’ are of particular relevance to presenter training. The Volunteer Co-ordinator is responsible for the recruitment, interviewing, induction and deployment of new volunteers. The Programming & Standards Committee is responsible for program monitoring and adjustment, presenter training and presenter rostering.
The responsibilities of the Programming & Standards Committee, amongst other thing, include:
- developing and reviewing program guidelines
- producing and updating a manual for classical presenters, and a manual for jazz, blues and other presenters, covering program preparation, presentation and recording studio operations consistent with ‘direct to DRS’ requirements
- monitoring the quality of programs, performance of presenters and compliance with program guidelines
- ensuring volunteers who identify as potential presenters possess a reasonable level of background knowledge in their chosen musical genre prior to providing training and assigning mentors to those volunteers
- mentoring and training new presenters to an acceptable standard.
The Training Process
5MBS offers free in-house training in broadcasting to prospective volunteer presenters who are interested in being involved in 5MBS’s broadcast operations. A volunteer intending to present on-air must undertake presenter training. An applicant with prior experience will have his/her credentials assessed and the training requirement shortened or waived depending on experience.
This assessment may include an on-air check.
Following initial interview/s, a prospective presenter will be allocated a trainer, who will usually be an experienced 5MBS presenter with expertise in the program area of interest to the applicant.
Practical training sessions are held in the station’s recording studio. These sessions cover an overview of radio presentation, music programming, presenting live-to-air, panelling, pre-recording and editing and script writing. The normal sequence of sessions is observation of the trainer (or other experienced presenter) in a live studio experience, followed by instruction on panel operation and/or pre-recording techniques (depending on the prospective presenter’s future deployment) and finally trial program production.
There is no set limit to the number of training sessions required. Training may continue for as long as is required, by agreement between trainer and trainee, until both feel an acceptable level of proficiency has been achieved. During this process, it should be noted that studio time can sometimes be hard to get.
Studio time for practice and/or program production should be booked in advance and, if the booking cannot be used, it must be cancelled so that someone else can use the studio time.
Following this practical phase of presenter training, the volunteer will be given the opportunity to present or pre-record and edit program/s to be broadcast to air, in order to gain experience and confidence behind the microphone. These programs are usually produced with the trainer present as advisor and troubleshooter. When training has been fully completed and some ‘live’ experience gained, the new presenter may apply for time slots in the program grid commensurate with their areas of musical interest or expertise.
Review and Assessment
During training, others (the Programming & Standards Committee or other experienced presenters) may wish to contribute to the learning experience. Constructive feedback in relation to the performance of new presenters during their training period is welcome, but must be relayed to the new presenters via their trainers or mentors. This assists with the smooth integration of such feedback into the overall training process.
Assessment of performance may be undertaken by the Programming & Standards Committee, if required, at an appropriate time following the completion of training. Should a formal assessment by the committee be required, this will take the form of a written appraisal to be given to the presenter (and the trainer if requested by the presenter) prior to any interview to discus the next steps.
New presenters must complete a membership application form and be a current financial member of the Association.
Some 5MBS programs are daily programs and many are weekly programs. New presenters are requested to consider the workload involved and tailor their availability and program frequency in a sustainable manner. This will vary from presenter to presenter, according to their circumstances.
This is natural in a voluntary organisation. Notwithstanding this, the station is looking for a relatively long term commitment from its presenters.
5MBS presenters are expected to multi-task. Presenting a program takes preparation (a one hour program may involve several hours of preparation) and presenters usually work independently to research, prepare, script and present a program. The responsibility to put all this together in a logical and entertaining sequence rests with the individual presenter.
Consideration should be given to a reliable source/s of suitable music. Many presenters rely on their personal collections of CDs, vinyl or digital files. 5MBS has a reasonable music library but no budget for purchasing. Therefore the station relies on the generosity of record companies and others to supply promotional copies. The CD collection is housed at the station and has been catalogued onto computer to enable remote access by presenters.
Basic training covers two main areas – program planning (choosing content) and technical production (panelling and pre-recording/editing). More detail is available in relation to program content in the form of individual ‘program guidelines’. Detailed instructions in relation to studio operations are also available (live-to-air presentation and panelling, pre-recording mp3 programs using Adobe Audition, pre-recording CD programs using Adobe Audition). An appropriate combination of these detailed documents should be used in conjunction with this overview document.