RADIO volunteers hoping to make their hobby a full-time job have been given some financial fuel by a leading coal company.
Community station Koast Radio is applying to media regulator Ofcom for a five-year, full-time FM licence, allowing it to go on air 365 days a year to more than 140,000 homes in Northumberland.
A decision on the bid is expected later this year, but meanwhile the 30 volunteers at the Morpeth-based venture are preparing to take to the airwaves for a second trial broadcast.
Now they have been given a boost with a £5,000 grant from UK Coal, which operates the 600-acre Potland Burn opencast mine near the station’s Longhirst Hall studio and HQ.
The cash will help fine-tune their long-running campaign to win the south Northumberland-wide licence, and help with the cost of the next four-week trial broadcast to listeners in the Morpeth and Ashington area.
The grant has come from a £500,000 community fund set up as part of the Potland Burn surface mining operation to support local projects and organisations.
Koast Radio is currently running an internet-based, youth-orientated service for listeners, broadcasting a mixture of 70% music and 30% talk.
Station manager, Vicky Oakley, said: “UK Coal’s commitment to what we are trying to achieve has been a huge morale boost.
“I believe there is definitely a real need for a community radio station in this area. We want to bring communities together and feel this fits in well with David Cameron’s idea of a Big Society. We want to make a difference in south Northumberland by providing volunteering opportunities for disadvantaged teenagers and unemployed adults.
“We are already forging strong links with local councils, community groups and charities. Ofcom have given us this month-long licence to see how we go. The last one went really well.”
Potland Burn project manager, Peter Wood, said: “There is recognition across our business that we can help individuals and projects within local communities. Koast Radio is bringing communities together, supporting local groups in their aims and objectives and giving them a platform to get their message across. UK Coal is proud to be able to support this.”
Trevor Thorne, who chairs the mine’s local liaison committee, said: “The community fund is unique in that it supports worthy causes related to the immediate area. Koast Radio have shown they have the ability to run a successful radio company.”
The fund has already awarded almost £98,000 to village halls, sports teams, community parks, craft clubs for the disadvantaged and allotment societies.