Commercial radio first took to the air in 1973 with the launch of LBC and Capital Radio in London. The radio network was expanded over several years until the majority of population could receive a station. A second tier of commercial stations followed on a more localised basis to fill in the gaps in original coverage. It then became possible to add stations catering for specific communities or community of interest. This third tier of licence awards are now referred to as Community Radio Stations and we want to be one of the providers, providing a service to a “community of interest”.
Who is the Community?
The Thames Estuary is synonymous with rock music going back to its very roots with Jagger and Richards, creators of The Rolling Stones. The late 1960’s saw the Canterbury Scene from East Kent, with progressive rock bands such as Caravan and Soft Machine.
The tradition of seeing your favourite band in the local pub is in decline, with digital music DJ’s creating more music in home studios. Today, live based music is becoming less common. We have seen the available venues in London and Essex decline markedly with those that still survive closing doors for the last time just about every week. In Kent the resistance to venues closing has been greater, but that does not mean they are not under threat.
Our project aims to reconnect live musicians with their natural listeners by supplementing the traditional small venue “shop window” with a radio station. We will speak out from our community of interest, from the musician perspective, to the East Kent listening public. As a community radio station we will also do what we can help keep what still remains of the live music active, for us and future generations to enjoy.
Who will AM-Rock be broadcasting to?
The medium wave band (AM) is inherently flexible in its delivery. During daylight hours we can expect a larger service area than at night time. We have requested a service area with a good daylight reception in Dover, Thanet and Canterbury. Much has been said about the increased area coverage of the medium wave band after dark, but in reality it substantially decreases due to larger powered incoming signals. To counter this effect, we are working in partnership with NLN, and have been granted access to what will be one of the tallest radio masts in Britain.
What is the timetable?
The bid was submitted alongside nine other contenders on September 6, 2016. If the application is accepted the licence will be awarded early in 2017, and we then have up to two years to start broadcasting. However we don't expect to need the full allotted time, and realistically you can expect an on air date around November 2017.
What will AM-Rock sound like?
Imagine a world where virgin artistic talent is given priority over commercial gain. We did too, but that was just our starting point. Members of the AM-Rock project team have been giving new acts airtime for decades. Bands and artists such as Transvision Vamp, Sugar Cubes, Sinead O'Connor and even Blur were “first plays” on our previous stations. That was a long time ago but we do have a pedigree, and it’s this “fresh new artist” sound we will be looking to achieve again, mixed in with good quality unpublished artists and a few sing-along classics.
Traditional rock hasn't been forgotten either, with no less than ten focused specialist weekly shows covering every aspect of non-dance orientated music.
Saturday is our “rebellion against sport” day, with live music though the day and a karaoke challenge for our listeners to finish off the evening.
If you've been lucky in life and made it to 55+ we can offer a superb selection of Classic Rock on Sundays, ranging from the earliest Peter Green to Grunge and Metal, played from the purest analogue source we can find.
What are the social commitments promised by AM Rock?
One of the unique characteristics of a community radio station is interactivity with the listening public. There are two types of process: on air and off air.
On air connections are perhaps the most noticeable of them, so let’s deal with that first. Saturday is what the radio trade calls an outside broadcast (OB) day. With this programme we are committing to ten hours of direct listener access. We suspect that this can't be beaten within the UK industry.
Being alone in a place you don't know can be daunting, so we will be broadcasting a weekly programme for newcomers to the area on Saturday morning called “Down From London”. Whilst it is accepted that not all newcomers to the area will be from London, “DFL” is the term used locally so we are going to claim it on behalf of the newcomers.
Off Air AM Rock will be introducing a portfolio based training scheme that we wish to make an industry standard. Although training at most community radio stations is generally high, it has not as yet been regulated.
What do you see in the crystal ball?
Given the opportunity AM Rock can reignite the passion for raw rock and pop music, and its artistic cousins such as poetry and drama. There is no shortage of talent out there, just a lack of connection with its potential audience. The catalyst is us lot, the media in the middle.
Sadly we the radio industry have seemingly forgotten how to nurture the new acts, as we look towards profit over public service. This has to change, or else we will kill the artistic roots that create the flower.
We look forward to one day being given the accolade that our little volunteer-led radio station in a corner of England created a whole new generation of rock performers, because that is what we are going to do.