2 years as a CMA Director, 15 years as a Community Media Practitioner
This week sees the end of my two year position as council and director at the Community Media Association. At the same time this week while in London, I randomly reconnected with the first person I started community radio with, Jacqueline Kasam.
It all started in year when technology was apparently going to break, "the epic year 2000", when I volunteered at ChorleyFM's Midsummer Festival. Along with Outside Broadcasting, interviewing and technical support, I helped Jacqueline produce her show. It was so amazing to reconnect with Jacqueline, all from a random pop-up box on LinkedIn! I'd always been interested in theatre and tech, and had just left school and started working for a media centre in Blackburn, Lancashire and was fab to meet such awesome and supportive people. And after 15 years of not seeing each other, we had lunch like we had been doing it every week for years. The beauty of connecting with someone who "gets it".
Years passed and I volunteered and worked on a variety of short service FM broadcasts (RSLs), before getting my first longer project-term based job as a Freelance Station Manager, for the long-defunked UnityFM. Not only did I get to use my technical skills, but also built on project management and learnt the ins-and-outs on how to keep legal and Ofcom happy. Needless to say, that did include some mistakes, but were always learnt from.
After a period of working in the commercial broadcast TV sector, I got the full time job as Station Manager and Technician of community radio station, PrestonFM.
Joining the fab team of 4 we started up the project from the ground and zero volunteers with hand-me-down equipment, and built it into one of the largest full time community licensed stations with 300+ volunteers, 3 state-of-the-art broadcast studios, recording studio, 6 full time staff and over 1000 community organisations engaged and thousands of quality content hours broadcast.
The original team were still going when sadly in 2012, after 7 years, the arts charity which ran PrestonFM, PRESCAP, went into liquidation and closed, sadly taking the paid radio project staff with it. The team were able to support the volunteers to build a structure to pass the license onto though before we left. We were readied to have a sit-in should the building management try to remove us before the license was transferred, and the radio team carried on working till the end of the month, even though redundancies had been effective immediately.
After this sudden and rather large blip in my career (and for those who've worked in community media, you'll know that actually isn't just a job, it's a life), I found my calling, and I Co-Founded DigiEnable. I also, realised I still wanted to give back to the community sector, especially community media, after I attended the 2012 Conference and heard the ABSOLUTELY AMAZING INSPIRATIONAL Zane Ibrahim and so I stood for a place on the Community Media Association (CMA) council in 2013 along with organising a BECTU stand on the day for members who might also want to join a relevant union.
I stood up and put my youthful, north west, female and union worker based voice across and stood up to fight for what I believed (and still believe) is the most important thing in community media, the people it supports.
There are many nuances of opinion of whether it's the listener that is also the most important thing, but for me that is important, but secondary to the participants and community groups that you directly involve, train or promote. To me that's where the stories are. So I stood up for all of those people, and was very happy to have been elected to CMA council.
If any of you follow the comings and goings of the CMA, it's been a tough few years, especially for the amazing staff the CMA has (and had). In my 2 year term on council, I've seen the staff team drop from 5 to 1 and some part time contractors. Sadly, it is reflective of some sections of the community media sector. That's another blog post on those reasons, in itself for another time perhaps.
So I feel I've not really achieved what I initially set out to do as a CMA director. I had hopes and aims that I stood up and put my name to, that sadly because the nature of the changing landscape and restructure of the organisation, haven't had the opportunity to do. But that's not something to stop little old me.
We've instead spent time focusing on keeping the CMA afloat, restructuring and remodeling the organisation, and to get the organisation, even though it is comunity based, to think more business like. I spent the last year as part of the Intermediary Management Group supporting this change and hopefully that's been of some use moving the organisation forwards to build back up again. Without downsizing I think most would agree, the CMA would have folded by now.
So even though my time with the CMA council has come to an end I've also been doing lots of ambassador work for the sector, be it without the CMA official hat on, and I'll continue to do that, probably for the rest of my life, probably until community media is as "normal" as mainstream media is today. And there will always be a battle on, just like the BBC has with the license fee at the moment. Support them with BECTU's Love It or Loose It Campaign.
I've now also developed work in associated sectors including my union, BECTU, European and International union and media organisations, and I'm very proud to have written for an academic book called Creative Education, Teaching and Learning: Creativity, Engagement and the Student Experience in which I wrote a chapter called "Digital Storytelling : Media That Makes a Difference".
And this weekend, even though I won't be joining my brilliant fellow CMA members at the annual CMA conference, #CMCLive I will be talking to anyone who'll listen, at the New Media Europe Conference #NMEU (If you're at either conference, check out the other hashtags over the weekend, I think you'll find them of interest)