SHMU – Spread Power With Words
Station House Media Unit (SHMU), affectionately pronounced ‘shmoo’ by all who know her, is a cutting edge, forward thinking volunteer-led community media hub based in Aberdeen, Scotland. It supports and trains residents to generate community-led content across four platforms: radio, video, print and online, and has big plans for the future thanks to a visionary board, staff team and over 100 enthusiastic and committed volunteers.
The organisation, a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee, is governed by a board of trustees comprising volunteers who have had significant personal experience in the project, and is run by a team of 12 full and part-time staff. It is based in the heart of the communities it serves – six regeneration areas of the city designated amongst Scotland’s 15% most disadvantaged.
This is our publishing and broadcast portfolio:
- Radio – shmuFM (66 unique shows, 70+ presenters, 100+ hours of live shows, broadcasting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
- Publications – shmuPrint (five, quarterly community magazines with content created and designed by volunteers)
- Video – shmuTV (volunteer-made campaigning videos brought in more than £14million funding for community redevelopment)
- Online – shmuWeb (provides internet access to radio output as well as information about the organisation)
SHMU is currently drawing all four platforms together – in line with the trend for digital convergence – through the Connected Middlefield project. This involves a Wi-Fi infrastructure that provides free internet access for the whole community and, assuming continued funding is secured, the service will be rolled out across the other five regeneration areas of the city.
Community Wi -Fi access (planned to be in line with Lord Carter’s plans for access to a 2Mb connection for all) begins with the SHMU portal. By making community magazines, videos and radio programmes available online, anyone can view SHMU content at any time. Plans are underway for a community TV service which will also be accessed through this portal, and then rolled out onto shmuTV as a free to air digital channel following the digital switchover.
Another opportunity, but also a major challenge, is to tap into the synergies which develop from cross fertilization of volunteer talent, content and ideas. All this will provide communities with more local news, entertainment and information, as well as give volunteers greater scope for creativity and skills development.
As a social enterprise, SHMU’s role is to help communities develop and grow. People of all ages get involved from primary school age right up to pensioners. The younger ones have created an interactive SHMU profile on social networking site Bebo, and swap information about their SHMU activities online. This complements our role in an important EU research project called Incluso, which explores how social networking can help young people engage with their community and society.
It’s a hugely exciting time for the community media sector, with what appears to be limitless opportunities. SHMU’s evolution across various platforms has taken place over a number of years and the organisation has had to be adaptable in its approach to the many challenges encountered. While digital technology will enable multi-platform media hubs such as SHMU to do more and more, in the end it’s all down to the volunteers and their communities to make it work.
Using Social Media as a Volunteer Support Worker and Volunteer Presenter at WFM
As a support worker I use social network websites, particularly Facebook (today’s favourite site) to keep in contact with many of my volunteers. I keep an eye on what they are up to (volunteers will often post things publically that they wouldn’t tell you to your face) and help them promote their shows through groups.
It is a great tool to teach computer and internet skills in a friendly manner at a pace that works for them. I have seen some presenters type more in a conversation, than they ever would for their shows or other research work. Using the groups they can publicise their shows and give people up to date information about content and features.
On the downside, people can use it as a replacement for real world contact and take things written on the internet about them to heart. I know, I’ve done it!
As a volunteer presenter I use social networking tools to promote my show. Facebook is an excellent method of keeping in touch with listeners and also collecting information and features for the show. We can update easily whilst on air, this is the same for Twitter and our blog as well.
The blog is useful for people who aren’t on Facebook, and is handy to promote up coming events, provide links to news items and events on the show. It is easily updated from any email account and is completely free. – I use Blogger, a Google product. Check out our blog here – www.tuesdaynightout.blogspot.com
We also produce a weekly podcast, available through iTunes and a number of podcast websites. We started the podcast in January 2009, and at the beginning of June it had over 5000 downloads. I have used www.jellycast.com to host it as they are fast and reliable, and for a one off charge of £11.40 you get a monthly download allowance of 25GB. For free hosting you can also go to www.archive.org. This is however a bit slower and does not give statistics for downloads.
Wythenshawe FM 97.2 FM
Follow me at www.twitter.com/mmmurry
Using Social Media at Felixtowe Radio
Trevor Lockwood, Chairman
We have several web sites, designed to cover east Suffolk because we have aspirations beyond our 5km remit (just don’t tell Ofcom!). Beyond those web sites – and do remember that web sites are moving on, they will not work if they remain static, html-based, sites. Tomorrow will bring change, and as community broadcasters we are in the vanguard and it’s likely that we will replace the present commercial model, where radio plays music hosted by banal presenters who are only there to cover the time between adverts. That is failing as advertisers realise that no longer does anybody stay around to listen to the trash they are given. They have the technology that allows choice. Community stations are flexible and can recognise local demand and give people the platform they really want. How’s that achieved? The government recognised that local FM broadcasting was important, and so there are a growing number of stations each servicing local needs. Some will fail, but not every bird grows strong enough to fly the nest. Progress requires that we make mistakes. We will create change in the media, and also present a new economic model for society.
At Felixstowe Radio we stream on the Internet, our programming matches local needs, and also recognises we have an international audience, especially when we are all asleep. We can be found on Internet radio networks and on mobile phones, but it’s important to get outside the nerdy world of Internet broadcasting, and that means we contact our folk in a growing number of ways. Obviously that includes FM broadcasting, even though we are restricted to a 5km radius when we really want to cover 400 square miles of rural east Suffolk. Email is great. Regular ezines have an impact. So we reach out with a number of ezines that are directed at specific audiences. Our blog allows more space to put across the message, whatever happens to be our choice that day, and then there’s Twitter – not sure what it does, but we are also on Facebook and any number of podcast sites, including our own at www.canstream.co.uk/felixstowe which is important as we make many programmes that are timeless, and our http://felixstowe.ning.com site serves our local town, not just our station – and that’s important, because we are servants not just blowing our own trumpets, our own views are unimportant, so we are always trying to develop a sense of community.
Community is important, and as a local community station we see it as our function to encourage involvement. At times the campaign may be too political for our own involvement (Ofcom rules on impartiality etc), so instead we provide facility, www.savefelixstowecountryside.co.uk is one example, where we provide the web site and let the group get on with it, we do the same at www.felixstowecountryside.co.uk for U3A walkers. A plan to build 1,700 homes on green fields provoked a response. We provided the web site, and created the Yahoo-based discussion forum. Recently a by-election for the local council had a 47.5% response with the winning party’s majority cut from 800 to just 62. Probably didn’t change much but politicians never admit they were wrong, they just adapt, and it’s our function to encourage local involvement, not to influence change. There’s much more we can do but it all needs cash, and jumping the hurdles set by grant bodies is often beyond our patience. We get frustrated, even angry, but we remain with our democratic dream.