A COMMUNITY radio body should be set up to provide practical and effective support for Wales’ network of community radio stations, says a National Assembly for Wales Committee.
A report from the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee, also recommends establishing a closer relationship with the BBC and commercial radio stations to share knowledge, access to resources and help with talent development.
Community radio was introduced following legislation, in order to introduce a new tier of radio broadcasting in the UK, focused specifically on community engagement. There are currently eleven community radio stations in Wales.
Ten stations, Calon FM, Tudno FM, BRfm, Radio Tircoed, Radio Glan Clwyd, Môn FM, Radio Cardiff, Rhondda Radio, Bro Radio and GTFM are already on air with Radio Aber aiming to start broadcasting soon.
The Committee’s short report into community radio in Wales contains a total of eight recommendations and is published based on information gathered during a Community Radio Symposium held on 20 June 2019 at The Atrium in Cardiff.
People from all community stations, academia, commercial radio, the BBC and members of the Committee attended the symposium to discuss a range of issues including where stations could collaborate (both within the community radio sector and with commercial radio/the BBC) and solutions to common problems.
The first recommendation published in the report is that the Welsh Government should fund a community radio body for Wales to offer practical support to stations, perform a representative role and co-ordinate cross station knowledge sharing. Practical support might include performing common tasks for stations like HR, marketing or grant writing.
The body should also help forge links between community stations and commercial and BBC radio, to help volunteers gain experience and develop skills across Wales.
The Committee also recommends that community radio is given access to the output of the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service and are given first refusal with a preferential rate when the BBC sell off equipment they no longer need.
Bethan Sayed AM, Chair of the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee: “During our work into community radio stations in Wales, we discovered the wide range of benefits that these stations provide the communities they serve, as a community link and hyperlocal news provider. They also provide a route for people to gain valuable training and experience in radio, whether they are interested in a career or just want to learn new skills and meet new people.
“Early into the symposium event, we saw for ourselves the value of networking as representatives from one station managed to help another with advice on a long-term technical issue. This affirmed our opinion that radio stations must be given opportunities to share knowledge and help each other. A Community Radio Body, funded by the Welsh Government, would co-ordinate this network and provide much needed practical support for both on-air and non-studio roles.
“We also believe that the sector would benefit greatly from closer co-operation with the BBC and commercial radio stations and sharing access to the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service would enable them to cover their local authority proceedings as part of a valuable hyperlocal service.”
Labour’s Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire Candidate Marc Tierney, who has extensive experience in commercial and community radio, told The Herald: ““I am pleased that Assembly Members have taken an interest in developing the Community Radio sector here in Wales. Over the years, community radio in Wales has been one step behind other parts of the United Kingdom due to various restrictions imposed by the regulator which has, due to our rurality and lower population, made it more difficult to establish stations here.
“At a time when commercial stations are consolidating and regionalising or even nationalising their output, the community sector can fill a vital gap in providing programme content that meets the needs of our diverse communities. As someone who started work in Commercial Radio almost twenty years ago, I understand the importance of a vibrant local media that gives a voice to communities, provides access to local news and current affairs and offers training opportunities for young people.
“The future of radio is very certainly now DAB and this report gives a welcome push to Ofcom, the communications regulator, to do all it can to embrace community broadcasting and to support the sector in empowering communities in every corner of Wales.”
Llanelli fitness group thanked for NHS donation
HYWEL DDA HEALTH CHARITIES has thanked Arumba Llan, a not-for profit fitness group based at Llangennech Rugby Club, Llanelli.
The club has over 60 members and has donated £2,500 to Hywel Dda Health Charities, the official NHS charity for Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire. The money will be used to support the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU) at Prince Philip Hospital.
Over the 9 years it’s been running, Arumba Llan has raised approximately £70,000 through weekly classes held at Llangennech Rugby Club.
They are a non-profit organisation and all the money raised from running classes, along with various charity events and theme nights, is donated to good causes.
Managing Director and instructor Nia Gibbs said, “2020 was a very difficult year for us as for every charity. We relied on kind donations from the girls who participated in live classes on Facebook with me and the few months of actual classes we’ve managed to have. Despite this, we decided this year to donate £2,500 to the ICU in PPH as a way to thank the NHS for their wonderful work, in particular to PPH, as we like to support local causes in Arumba Llan.”
“Teresa Owens helped me with deciding where the money was most needed. I only knew that I wanted the money to help with COVID in some way. She is a wonderful human being along with a massive gang of ladies who support me.”
“I believe these funds are greatly required by the hospital and it is a chance for Aumba Llan to thank the tireless work of the staff and a tribute to their selflessness during this precarious climate.
“It is also of great pride that we have members of Arumba Llan who are employees at PPH.”
Catherine Cole, a Sister in Prince Philip ITU said “We would like to thank the Arumba Llan for the very generous donation. It will be used to benefit the ITU providing services and activities above and beyond core NHS expenditure such as extra patient comforts, the most up to date medical equipment, more welcoming surroundings, staff training, development and wellbeing initiatives and enhanced care. Thank you”
To find out more about Hywel Dda Health Charities go to hywelddahealthcharities.org.uk.
Burry Port residents urged to pool ultrafast broadband vouchers
OPENREACH is asking people living in Burry Port to get behind a push for faster broadband.
Ultrafast, ultra-reliable full fibre broadband is within touching distance for people living in Burry Port – thanks to Openreach’s Community Fibre Partnership scheme.
The company – the UK’s largest broadband network used by customers of BT, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, Vodafone and Zen – is urging people living or working in Burry Port to consider pooling Gigabit broadband vouchers available from the UK and Welsh Governments to help build a new, gigabit-capable network, where fibre is run directly from the exchange all the way to each property.
Many residents have already pledged their support, but those who haven’t and don’t currently have access to a 100Mbps broadband service can check if they qualify and pledge their voucher on the Connect My Community website.
If enough people come forward to pledge, and validate their vouchers – before the scheme ends – Openreach can work with the community to build a customised, co-funded network and bring full fibre broadband to areas not included in any existing private or publicly subsidised upgrade schemes.
By working with Openreach in this way, more than 150,000 homes and businesses across the UK can already benefit from ultrafast, ultra-reliable broadband.
Connie Dixon, Openreach’s partnership director for Wales, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity for the community of Burry Port to bring full fibre infrastructure to the town but the clock is ticking.”
“Deadline for vouchers to be pledged and issued is the end of March so we need as many people as possible in Burry Port to get involved so that we get enough pledges ‘over the line’. Everyone who pledges a voucher will be doing their bit to help make Burry Port one of the best-connected places in Wales. Pledging couldn’t be simpler, but we need residents to act quickly.”
Connie added: “Thousands of homes and businesses across Wales can already upgrade to the Openreach full fibre network and local people can use our online postcode checker to see what’s now available.
“We’re investing £12 billion to build full fibre broadband to 20 million homes – and more than three million of those will be in the toughest third of the UK – but we can’t upgrade the whole country alone. This latest support from government, alongside help to remove red tape and barriers that slow down the build, is vital.”
To claim vouchers which contribute towards the cost of building the new network, residents are asked to commit to ordering a full fibre service from a provider of their choice for at least 12 months once the new network is available.
Eligible residents can qualify for up to a maximum of £3,000 while small to medium sized businesses can claim up to £7,000 under the UK Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme which has been topped up by Welsh Government funding.
Carmarthenshire County Council leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “We welcome this scheme and would strongly recommend residents and businesses in Burry Port seeking ultra-fast, ultra-reliable internet speeds to register their interest now. Fast, reliable connectivity is vital to support business growth, help communities to thrive, improve health and well-being, and make it easier for people to get online and access public services. This has been particularly highlighted during the current Covid-19 pandemic.”
Full fibre technology provides more reliable, resilient and future-proof connectivity; meaning fewer faults; more predictable, consistent speeds and enough capacity to easily meet growing data demands. It’s also future-proof, which means it will serve generations to come and won’t need to be upgraded for decades.
Fibre optics – strands of glass around one-tenth the thickness of a human hair – transmit data using light signals. Fibre is smaller, lighter and more durable than copper cabling and less vulnerable to damage. This short video explains what full fibre technology is and there’s more info here.
Badgers saved in ‘bizarre’ situation at canal wall
AN RSPCA officer has labelled helping two badgers trapped on a ladder in a Torfaen canal as “the most bizarre and unusual” day in her 15 years on the frontline.
The animal welfare charity teamed up with firefighters from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service to help two badgers, who had – unfathomably – got stuck between metal steps and the wall, on Pentre Lane over the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in Cwmbran.
Video footage captures the badger’s plight and the moments they were saved.
RSPCA Cymru was called, with rescue officer Sian Burton and inspector David Milborrow rushing to the scene. They enlisted the support of the fire service as they sought to help the trapped badgers. The rescue took place on Friday (5 February).
A large animal rescue team from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service attended, and abseiled down the canal wall, with their ropes tied to an RSPCA van for security. Inspector Milborrow got hold of one of the badgers using a grasper – while firefighters held nets below him for extra security.
The second badger jumped into the water as the first was rescued – causing “serious concern” for the RSPCA. However, the badger then, amazingly, climbed up the ladder and into reach of the grasper, where he was also pulled to safety.
Both badgers have now come into the care of the RSPCA for a period of rehabilitation before an anticipated return to the wild.
ARO Burton said: “Without doubt, this was the most bizarre and unusual day of my 15 years spent on the frontline for animals. These poor badgers were stuck fast between the ladder and high wall, with no route to escape and the canal waters below them.
“Fortunately, we were able to reach the badgers with a grasper, as firefighters abseiled down the wall and looked to usher the animals towards safety. After we got the first badger, the other fell in the water – which did cause us some serious concern. But he got out of the water – and climbed up the ladder, and we soon grabbed him too.
“Both badgers are a bit rough, and have some cuts – so have come into our care for some rehabilitation. We really hope we can release them back to the wild soon.
“We’re so grateful to the member of the public who spotted them – and the incredible firefighters and large animal rescue team from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. It’s a great advert of what we can achieve together for animal welfare.”
The badgers had initially been spotted by local resident Mandy Williams, who sounded the alarm after her dogs – Tara and Bella – showed an unusual amount of interest in what was happening at the canal wall.
Mandy said: “Last week, my dogs had spotted a squirrel at the canal – and when Tara went back there, I assumed she wanted to have another look. But then Bella ran over too, so I had a look myself – and was shocked to see two badgers staring back at me, trapped between the wall and metal ladder steps.
“They were wedged stuck and tightly together. I contacted the RSPCA – and waited with the badgers while they came. Occasionally, one would become loose and they’d fight a bit – so I did my best to reassure them.
“I don’t know if it’s because it is particularly slippy – meaning they’d fallen in, but both badgers were trapped and sadly without help there was no chance of escape from the canal.
“The fire brigade and RSPCA staff were absolutely marvellous – and I’m so happy to hear both badgers are doing okay and are now in safe hands.”
A spokesperson for the South Wales Fire & Rescue Service added: “It was lovely to work with the RSPCA on this rescue. It was a once in a lifetime experience, not only did we have the opportunity to save one badger, but two. We’re pleased we were able to support the RSPCA in rescuing them before they are returned to the wild.”
Should you wish to help the RSPCA with their rescue work, you can donate online.
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