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Crisis funding for independent radio in Devon
Posted on: October 23rd 2020
Section: Member news

Radio Exe is Devon’s only independent radio station, and one of the few left in the UK. Truly local, we broadcast from studios in Exeter - on 107.3FM across Exeter, Mid and East Devon, and a broader part of the county on DAB digital radio. Run by local people, we play music from the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll to the current day, with programmes packed with Devon’s news and information. Our high-quality independent journalism, on-air and online, is unmatched by any other broadcaster in the south west. We've had to change news output during the pandemic; a successful Crowdfunder campaign will help us increase Devon's news coverage again.

Radio Exe isn’t like most other radio stations. As other stations have turned into national brands and closed their Devon bases, we took the opposite approach. Local people bought the station from a London-based broadcaster in 2011 and we’ve been running it ever since. We don’t make a profit and we invest heavily in local programmes and local news.

We're truly local: presented by people who live in, and love, Devon

Just eight people who live in and love the county run Radio Exe, helped by some wonderful volunteers. Being locally owned, and not controlled by global media giants, comes with advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, we’re close to our audience so we produce programmes and online content aligned to what Devon people tell us they want. On the downside, we have high costs that can’t be diluted by running a national network. Whilst the national groups have closed local studios, Radio Exe keeps creative jobs local and buys from local suppliers. Over an average month, we reach a wide, loyal audience of about 50,000 adults on air and 115,000 people online.

Why we're crowdfunding

The coronavirus crisis has hit Radio Exe hard. All our revenue comes from advertising. In normal times about 85 per cent is from local businesses, in the leisure, tourism and hospitality sectors, the very ones hit hardest by the crisis. As a result, they’ve been unable to advertise as usual. The knock-on effect for Radio Exe is severe. 

We’ve adapted, of course. Against all our instincts, we’ve reduced our programming, losing some loyal people from our already small team. We’re more than sad about that, but we hope the changes have only a small impact on our audience. Now we’re fighting to maintain our independence. That’s where we need your help.

The funding gap

Radio Exe costs half a million pounds a year to run. We need to raise £82,500 to plug the gap we'll see between now and Easter 2021, by which time indications are that, unless there’s a significant second wave of the virus, the advertising market may have recovered. If we can raise a higher amount, we’ll also be able to offer new training courses, building on our success developing the next generation of broadcasting talent.

The last local commercial radio station standing in the south west

Recently broadcasting rules changed to favour national companies. In Devon, that's led to other local stations being bought by international groups and closing their Devon studios. Radio Exe could take steps to cut back to just three hours of local programmes on weekdays and nothing at weekends if we chose. But that would go against everything we're about, which is about providing Devon programmes for Devon people, even in the face of increasing competition from national well-resourced brands.

Our promise: the most music and Devon's news

Currently we produce 85 hours of local Devon programming a week, rather than the 15 which the regulator allows us to do. We publish about 50 local stories every week online too, which generally reaches more than 100,000 people a month, plugging the gap in local journalism that's arisen as national newspaper groups also cut back their local content.

If we stay local, we'll continue to play a greater breadth of music than other similar stations. Every week, Radio Exe plays about 1,250 different pieces of music; that's double the station that's just turned into a national brand in Torbay and three times the number of the national brand in Exeter. 

The precarious situation

The sad reality is that the pandemic has meant our growing audience hasn't led to greater financial stability. It's more precarious than ever. So if you can make a pledge, choose a reward and join our listener club, you'll be helping keeping your local radio station independent so we can serve Devon's listeners in the way national brands can't. After all, you don't know what you've got till it's gone.


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