The radio has probably always been a background to most of our lives, but the pandemic and the nature of lockdown have made it not just a background but a vital companion for so many of us. We spoke to Julian at Kennet Radio about this – and he shared some exciting news with us too…
You started broadcasting in 2012 – tell us about that……..
In 2011, West Berkshire’s then local commercial radio station was swallowed up into The Breeze network (now Greatest Hits Radio). And that was the end of local radio in West Berkshire. Or so it seemed.
In September 2012 I called a meeting to see if there was any interest in setting up a community radio station, and 41 people came! And that was the birth of Kennet Radio. We started broadcasting online straight away, and with support from Greenham Trust we established our studio in central Newbury.
We built the studio from second-hand equipment and donations, and after a long application process and two trial broadcasts, Ofcom granted us a licence to broadcast full-time on FM. We started our service on 106.7 FM on 10th March 2018.
Broadcasting in these challenging times has highlighted how important communication on a local level is – how did it affect what you do?
The first problem we faced was how to keep the station broadcasting while adhering to lockdown rules. That meant that we had to learn very quickly how to broadcast from home so that we could keep Kennet Radio on the air.
Broadband technology played a huge part, as it has done for so many businesses and families. Several of us already had home studios set up, which was a good start. But that was not enough to fill the schedule. Lots of our team are great radio presenters but not necessarily technical experts, so it was quite a challenge supporting individual team members to become sufficiently technically proficient.
The result was that Kennet Radio has maintained its live schedule throughout the pandemic, keeping people informed about what help was available locally, thanks to the dedication of our committed team of 60 volunteers.
Speaking of challenges, tell us about your exciting news…
For the last three years Hungerford has been just out of range of our Newbury transmitter.
With a huge amount of support from the Hungerford community, including town and district councillors, local Chamber of Commerce, and our MP, we applied to Ofcom to extend our coverage to include Hungerford. We’ve just heard that our application has been approved, so we are very excited!
There is still a lot to do before we can switch on our new Hungerford transmitter, but I’m hopeful that we can do so before Christmas, just in time for the Christmas Lights Switch on celebration in Hungerford.
And finally, what are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?
First and foremost, I’m looking forward to getting everyone back to broadcasting from the studio when it is safe to do so. It is truly amazing what can be achieved from simple home set-ups with modern technology and a bit of ingenuity, but there is no substitute for broadcasting from a properly equipped radio studio.
And finally – having a holiday! Like so many other people, I haven’t had a holiday for the last couple of years, so it will be fabulous to be able to have a break, even if it is only on the Costa del Newbury!
For more information visit www.kennetradio.com