Community Media Association: Coronavirus Update

Dear Members, Supporters, and Friends

Given the current situation with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, the Community Media Association wanted to take this opportunity to reassure all our members and the wider sector that we will be here to work with you throughout the developing health crisis.

Understandably in these uncertain times, all of us will be facing a variety of tough challenges and we want you to know that we will be doing the best we can with the resources available to support individual organisations and the sector as a whole - so do keep in touch!

The situation around the developing COVID-19 pandemic is changing every day, so we suggest that all community media organisations keep vigilant about developing contingency plans and keeping abreast of updates from the official sources.

Our number one priority for the foreseeable future is to support our people working in the community media sector and their projects and organisations. We want as strong a sector as possible for when we emerge on the other side of this crisis.

These are the first steps that we are taking to help community radio stations and other community media projects:

  • We will liaise with Ofcom and act as an effective conduit of information between the regulator and the sector. Yesterday we published updated advice here from Ofcom on the situation.

  • We will liaise with DCMS and act to convey our sector’s needs and requirements to the Department.

  • We will liaise with Public Health England, NHS England, and the other equivalent health bodies to ensure that our sector has up-to-date information on the current situation for broadcast.

  • For Ofcom-licensed community radio stations and other funded projects, a priority is to stay in business. We advise that all current contracts are fulfilled with funding bodies and other third parties.

· We ask that our sector thinks about what help can be offered to their communities with regard to the current health crisis.

General Advice
Below we have listed some of the key places you can look for useful advice and updates:

Over the past week, there has been concern around the support to be made available for third sector organisations with respect to the coronavirus outbreak. A considerable package of business support measures were only just announced yesterday afternoon and we are still processing that information.

We have a page on our website here for general information which we will endeavour to update periodically.

Business Support
A number of questions have been raised as to whether the Government’s financial support for small businesses will apply to charities, including the Business Interruption Loan Scheme - potentially this is only available to those with significant trading activities, and a £10,000 cash grant is to be made available to ‘the smallest businesses’.

The CMA is in frequent contact with DCMS, and we expect to be able to confirm the applicability of these programmes in our members’ communications in due course. DCMS confirmed to us yesterday that key community radio personnel will be classified as Key Workers during the epidemic.

If you have queries on changes to business rates owed or other tax queries, HMRC have launched a dedicated COVID-19 helpline. You can call on 0800 0159 559, Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm, and Saturday 8am to 4pm.

Fundraising Support
For further guidance on the specific issues affecting your organisation at this time, please check out the sources below:

There has been a further announcement that charities will be able to request an extension from the Charity Commission to the due date for their annual returns. Find out more, or call on 0300 066 9197, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

For grant-funded projects, it is a good idea to contact the funding body as early as possible to flag up any possible issues with the delivery of any ongoing projects.

The Audio Content Fund has announced a special funding round, for content that will support radio audiences during the coronavirus crisis. The fund, which is financed by the UK Government, has made a minimum of £200,000 of its budget available for ideas that will improve the quality of listeners’ lives during restrictions in place due to Covid-19.

Music Licence Fees
For any issues with regard to the PPL & PRS Joint Licence for Community Radio then PPL advise that all of their staff are now working remotely and to get in touch by email only for the time being via their our dedicated mailbox at communityradio@ppluk.com with any queries that you have. PPL will be able to respond more promptly that way.

Business Continuity
We advise everyone that it would be prudent to prepare and consider adjustments to your business plans in the event that the actions noted above are taken. Consider the level of disruption that might be caused. If you have public-facing premises then you may have to consider closing them for a period of time, cancel planned events (such as outside broadcasts), or take action if staff and volunteers are taken ill or are otherwise unavailable. We have an example community radio station action plan here.

And we have some excellent advice here about creating a risk assessment for community radio stations and studio work given the coronavirus situation.

Public Service Announcements
We will update our Chat Forum with the Public Service Announcements on Community Radio from Public Health England as they are made available for broadcast by all community radio stations and community broadcasters.

Advertising
A recent suggestion from social media is to encourage advertisers to stay on as clients by offering to change their campaigns to messages of good will to their customers and your audience. For example, “ABC Café is currently closed but we look forward to opening again soon for business. For the time being, we’d like you all to stay healthy and safe”. A positive message like that can help support businesses going through difficult times and provide a valuable source of local support. This could also bring in useful revenue and keeps advertisers in touch with your audience.

Surveys
Last week, Ofcom contacted the CMA to gauge the sector’s opinion on whether it would be appropriate to postpone the roll-out of small-scale DAB due to the coronavirus crisis.

There are few people keener than Ofcom to see SSDAB delivered as quickly as possible - but, even with the best intentions, SSDAB will certainly be delayed due to the capacity of all the organisations, including community radio stations, to engage with the licensing process.

However, two-thirds of survey respondents think that there should be no delay in the rollout of SSDAB and those responses have been forwarded to Ofcom who will use them to inform their timetabling decision. This survey remains open for further feedback.

The CMA is also conducting a survey to gauge the impact of the current coronavirus crisis on our members, the wider sector, and other community broadcasters such as Internet-based projects and hospital radio stations.

This survey is to address two broad areas:

a) how are community broadcasters responding to the crisis as broadcasters, and

b) how are community broadcasters responding as businesses to the crisis.

We are collating this information to assess the impact of the epidemic on the community broadcasting sector. The Community Media Association will present this information to DCMS and Ofcom. We expect that we will repeat the survey periodically to refresh the information.

Keep in touch
If you represent an Ofcom-licensed community radio station then please contact the Broadcast Licensing Team at Ofcom in the event of any possible change to your station’s ability to meet its Key Commitments. You may contact the Community Media Association if you have a specific question or concern about your organisation and the effects of the Coronavirus. We have published updated advice from Ofcom here.

We have also set up a central email address for enquiries on this matter – you may email the CMA using covid19@commedia.org.uk.

We will be collating all queries on a central basis. This will make it easier for us to feedback to DCMS about whether our sector requires further help and guidance.

We wish all of our members, supporters, and friends all the best in these unprecedented and challenging times. This is certainly a time to prove the value of our sector to connect communities, inform individuals, and to make a positive difference.

Take care and stay safe

Danny Lawrence sig
Danny Lawrence - BEM, BCAc
Chairman, Community Media Association


https://www.twitter.com/community_media