This thesis is a study of the origins and development of Community Radio in the United Kingdom under New Labour, focusing on the decade that saw Tony Blair serving as Prime Minister between 1997 and 2007.
The research contributes to an enhanced understanding of Community Radio in Britain during this period, in two ways. First, it provides a factual contribution – namely, it places into the public domain hidden testimonies and evidence about how Community Radio developed. On the basis of a sample of stations, it uses case studies to examine how, if at all, New Labour policies affected actual practice on the ground. Second, it attempts to provide an intellectual argument – namely, that Community Radio in Britain today can be understood fully only in the wider context of New Labour’s period in office.
While Part I of the thesis focuses on the ideals of community radio advocacy, community media theories, British local radio practice and New Labour’s social and cultural policies, Part II discusses the realities and how the community radio sector developed its policy proposals and practices after 1997.
The evolution of Community Radio is studied using a mix of qualitative methods, including the review of a consistent body of ‘grey literature’, informal data gathering, oral history interviews, and a period of observational research in a selection of three case-studies: ALL FM (Manchester), Forest FM (Verwood), and Canterbury Student Radio-CSR FM (Canterbury).
The original contribution to knowledge that this thesis makes, is to demonstrate how the most important factor facilitating community radio lobbying in this period was the presence of a discourse within which the arguments of community media activists could make sense, and that led to the introduction of Community Radio as a third sector of full-time radio broadcasting in the United Kingdom.