SummaryIn this chapter we will look at the structures of different radio stations. We will consider how and why a radio station may be considered legally as a single, cohesive organisation before moving to outline different types of structure within the radio industry. We will outline the roles of management and staff in radio stations before providing two different examples of organisational structure from community and commercial radio. What we will argue is that in many radio stations people, and particularly managers, often assume multiple roles. Furthermore we will also argue that community radio stations often have structures that are less based on a classical hierarchy and more on an integrative and consensual one based on shared values. We will discuss how commercial radio stations may have both a local hierarchy but may also be part of a wider national, or international, structure that includes other group companies and service providers outside the parent company.
The requirement for structureAn organisational structure helps define the roles of, and the relationships between, the different people, departments and functions within an organisation. It helps specify the division of work and the hierarchy, authority and formal lines of communication.
Ofcom require the applicant for a community or commercial licence to be a single legal entity. Past experience of splits in applicant groups between the award of the licence and coming on-air, often a very challenging period for a new project, has taught the regulator to award licences only to corporate bodies. As there are well established laws and rules governing the ownership and conduct of companies this usually removes any need for the broadcast regulator to become involved in internal disputes over the right to control the licensed service, which might occur in a more loosely-defined association of individuals. The incorporation of the group operating a radio service also gives comfort to those funding the initiative, allowing transparent financial accounting, statutory reporting and a clear system of governance.
It is customary, but not obligatory, for a separate company to be formed when applying for each individual licence even when the service will be operated as a closely controlled subsidiary of a larger group. The company will own the licence, may also own all the facilities and assets used and can enter into contracts with individuals and companies supplying services to support the station. There can be tax and other financial benefits in this model and, in the event that the station is subsequently sold, it makes the transfer to another owner relatively straightforward. Such companies often start life as a dormant entity bought 'off the shelf' for a small fee, the name and constitution being simply changed at a first general meeting of shareholders ‚€“ which in the case of a wholly owned subsidiary would amount to one vote.
While commercial licence-holders will be constituted as standard private or public limited companies, a standard model for the structure of a community radio station has yet to emerge in the UK. The short history of the sector has seen considerable discussion as to whether such a group is best constituted as a conventional non- profit distributing company, a co-operative, a charity or a community interest company. There is general agreement that the management of a community radio station should comprise a democratic structure. Yet this poses further questions as to the constituency that the democracy is intended to serve: is it the enthusiasts who set up the station; the newcomer volunteers who gradually take over; or representatives of the community which the station intends to serve? Who decides who should represent the community interests? And what happens when the community representatives take a different view to the station founders?
Model constitutions and memorandums and articles of association are available from organisations promoting community enterprises and often can be simply adapted to form the basis of a new company structure. Existing companies in similar field may often be willing to share a copy of their constitution and in the commercial field the company accountant and solicitor will be able to help. Many matters are governed by company law and it is usually only necessary to modify those items specific to the organisation and its proposed service or services.
Examples of incorporated company structures
A company limited by sharesIn a company limited by shares, the members own shares in the company, either by purchasing them or by being awarded them, perhaps in return for services. Voting rights are usually in proportion to the number of shares each member holds, the shareholders, at an Annual General Meeting, appointing directors to run the company in accordance with the 'Memorandum and Articles of Association'. Any surplus income can be returned to the shareholders and therefore this is not seen as an acceptable model for a community radio station. However, as a private company might have only one shareholder and, as that single member may be another organisation, this is the form usually used for subsidiaries of larger radio groups.
In the Memorandum of Association it is usual to specify the objects of the company quite broadly, in order not to limit future developments, but it is crucial to be very specific in the Articles of Association, which specify such matters as voting procedures and the election and functions of directors. The future stability and orderly development of the station will depend on the decisions made here on how the membership can influence the organisation.
All companies are required to have a Company Secretary, who may also be a member or director but this is not essential.
The organisation may be either private limited company (indicated as Ltd.) or a public company (PLC). In a private company admission to membership is usually at the discretion of the directors, a PLC is more difficult and expensive to establish but is permitted to offer shares to the public. Many of the larger commercial radio groups are PLCs, giving them easier access to additional funds from the stock exchange but leaving them at the whim of institutional investors.
Companies limited by shares cannot have charitable status.
A company limited by guaranteeThis is structured in the same way as the company limited by shares, but has no shareholders and is generally a not-for-profit company. It is a very common, extremely flexible corporate structure for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations of all types, and is a suitable vehicle for a community radio group wishing to become a corporate body.
Members are not required by law to subscribe any money in order to become a member. However, they must agree to pay a sum towards the company's debts if it were to go out of business. This is usually set at a nominal one pound. The directors are normally elected by and from the membership.
Although the memorandum and articles of association of a community radio licence holder will prevent the distribution of any profit to members, Ofcom are alert to the possibility that directors or employees of the company could personally benefit by paying themselves exceptionally large salaries.
A co-operative societyThese are legally known as Industrial and Provident Societies (IPS) and must be registered with the Registry of Friendly Societies. Run by a committee of management accountable to the membership who will typically hold voting rights at general meetings and will elect all or some of the committee.
In the case of a community radio station the IPS could be structured as a bona fide co-operative, with the membership drawn from those working or volunteering within the station, or as a "the society for the benefit of the community" where the membership criteria are detailed in the society's rules, to include perhaps those living or working in the area of benefit, or supporting the objectives of the service. IPS legislation does not permit members under sixteen years of age.
Members may comprise individuals and/or other corporate bodies (unincorporated organisations cannot themselves become members but the rules may allow such bodies to nominate individuals to membership). As an IPS must have a minimum of three members (or two other IPSs) and must operate on the basis of a participating membership, it is not suitable as a structure for subsidiary companies.
While this might appear to be the perfect model for a community radio station, Radio Regen and the Community Media Association (Radio Regen 2006: 92) point out that in practice there are often problems with co-operatives. They are "very democratic, but highly unwieldy in their decision making and prone to schisms and executive deadlock; will not attract tax or rates relief; may find it difficult to attract funding."
Profit distribution is permitted in a co-operative if the rules permit it, but not a society for the benefit of the community.
A community interest companyA relatively new option for a radio organisation looking for a corporate structure, the community interest company is primarily intended for use by social enterprises who need the freedom to trade as a company but also need some objective evidence of their community benefit credentials in order to secure grant aid and other support. As such it would appear to be ideal for the voluntary and community radio sectors.
At the time of writing there is relatively little experience of how these structures will work in practice, but, with not-for-profit principles built in, the community interest company should give funders confidence that their money will be spent appropriately.
With government talking of additional tax benefits for community interest companies, any new community radio group looking for an appropriate legal structure would be well advised to look into the advantages of this model.
One station has looked at using this structure in a more sophisticated way to enable more autonomy for different geographical areas:
We believed it was the best structure for us, as a community radio station. Our next stage, as we serve a rural area, is to set up CICs for each of our small towns, so they retain independence, and then to create a secondary cooperative as an umbrella organisation.
Charitable statusNot-for-profit radio companies with social objectives might also register as charities, opening up new fund-raising opportunities and giving access to tax, VAT and rates relief.
A charity is defined as an organisation that exists to benefit the public, or a section of the public that is demonstrably in need, through the pursuit of certain objectives that the law recognises as charitable. A community radio service would therefore need to demonstrate to the Charity Commissioners that its purposes fall within these legally defined objectives: the advancement of education; the relief of poverty and need; the advancement of religion; and other purposes beneficial to the community, including public safety, the promotion of racial harmony, the preservation of the environment, providing recreation and leisure facilities, and urban and rural regeneration in areas of need.
Registration as a charity is a lengthy and relatively difficult process and brings restrictions on how the company may operate. Importantly for a community radio service there is a limit on the amount of income a charity can take from trading activities, generally a 25 percent limit compared to the 50 percent limit on commercial revenue permitted by Ofcom. A way round this is to set up a completely separate subsidiary trading company to sell airtime and other services, with surpluses paid to the charity, but this adds a considerable administrative burden for a small organisation.
Management and staff rolesIdeally the job of the Station Manager should be to provide leadership and every essential task should have been placed under the control of one of the departments and delegated to someone competent to get on with it. The efficient Station Manager should be able to walk away from the station secure in the knowledge that nothing will stop happening. The Station Manager's role is however also to do with managing change, to look for new opportunities or ways of working for the company, and to or cope with unexpected difficulties with the existing operation. In other words they should strive to make themselves redundant, confident that in a changing and unpredictable world there will always be sufficient new opportunities and things going wrong with the existing operation to keep them busy.
In practice few station managers have the luxury of such a singular job description. Not only the tight budget required of a successful radio service but also a shortage of experienced and talented radio managers requires that their expertise be called into more hands-on daily use. Most station managers worked their way up the management ladder in a particular field, often in sales or programming although some have technical operations, news, marketing or financial backgrounds. In a smaller operation they will combine their overall management duties with those of a Head of Sales or a Programme Controller. An experienced presenter may continue to host a daily programme.
The Station Manager who also heads an important department should ensure that they appoint a deputy in the department to cover those days when their attention must be diverted elsewhere.
Reviewing the progress of fifteen experimental not-for-profit 'Access Radio' projects launched in 2001, Anthony Everitt (2003) found the human resources required to run a permanent service were under-estimated by many of the pilot projects:
Those, like Shine FM and Angel Radio, which have full-time, but unpaid, managers and trainers, now recognise the need for salaried employees in the long term. Even those with an apparently generous staff complement have found the combination of running a radio station, providing high quality training, negotiating partnerships with community groups and local agencies and (in relevant cases) selling advertising impossible to achieve. The consequence has been growing levels of exhaustion and under- accomplishment.Everitt outlined their staffing needs:
The pilot scheme demonstrates that the basic tasks which an Access Radio station needs to undertake if it is to fulfil its potential and be financially viable are station management, training, financial and general administration (including the co-ordination of volunteers), fund-raising (public sector and/or advertising and sponsorship) and community liaison. It is possible to envisage a well-trained group of volunteers being able to shoulder much of the burden of station management. The same is probably true for aspects of training and mentoring. However, the remaining tasks are likely to call for more time than many volunteers can be expected to have at their disposal. In addition, professional expertise is necessary for efficient administrative management. Fundraising from the public sector is a sophisticated and laborious art and the experience‚€¶illustrates the unwisdom of entrusting commercial sales and marketing to even the most willing volunteer. Negotiating partnerships with local agencies and institutions requires knowledge of community liaison and development.
Structure of a community radio stationIronically, while the well-funded commercial radio operators can often adopt fairly standard models for their PLC and its many private company subsidiaries, the issues are far more complex and varied in a social or voluntary organisation.
Even the most democratic voluntary or community radio station is required to operate within the law, broadcasting regulations and the specific terms of its licence and funding arrangements and must have some structure designed to maintain some level of authority, obedience to rules and attention to the social purpose of the service in the face of inevitable human differences. On the other hand there is a general desire in such organisations to avoid the top-down decision making of the big commercial groups and the BBC, which are often seen as stifling originality and creativity.
As befits a new sector looking for alternatives to the long-established duopoly of the BBC and commercial radio, there are as many structures as there are applicants for community radio licences. However some common themes emerge that include a desire for good communication and democracy. As such structures are often less hierarchical and less likely to be based on traditional business structures that often emphasise specific functions, job specialisations, clear departmental lines along with an assumption that authority, power and control are maintained at the top of the hierarchy. You can compare this with for instance Fayol (1948) who presents traditional models of bureaucracy.
Community radio structures are often 'flatter' (there are fewer layers in the hierarchy) and an individual may be a member of more then one 'team' or committee. As such there should be fewer departmental and functional conflicts and better communication throughout the station because of the more integrated structure (Linstead, Fulop and Lilley 2004). Whilst there is an acknowledgment of authority it is one where authority is more based on shared values and rules then on hierarchical position. Since people cohere to, and accept legitimate authority based on shared values they do not have to be forced or coerced by management to obey rules and commands. Weber for instance argues that power is force and coercion and largely ineffective (Weber 1964).
Headline Media Birmingham is a charitable organisation that uses radio and publishing to entertain, inform, engage and involve the local community in north-east Birmingham with Restricted Service Broadcasts. Its stated mission is to break down barriers to communication and to offer local people a chance to do something practical about unemployment, skills training, education and social isolation. With established studios and training facilities at the base of a residential tower block the project has the opportunity to develop its own ideas about the ideal corporate structure to meets its needs.
In applying for a full-time community radio licence, as Switch Radio, to serve some of the most deprived communities in north-east Birmingham and north Solihull, the organisation has set out a clear management structure designed to create and maintain a truly representative radio service but a structure that emphasises integration and control through shared values via a use of sub-committees.
Switch Radio. Proposed management and policy making structure:
The board comprises voluntary part time members with representation from the service area, professionals with relevant skills and experience, volunteers and other users and co-opted members of the community. Members are nominated and elected by the Volunteer Forum.
The Broadcast sub-committee is responsible to the Board for, amongst other things, drafting programming policy, co-ordinating listener research, monitoring output and performance and ensuring legal compliance. In addition to three directors it includes the Station Manager, the Training and Programme Manager and volunteers with broadcast-related managerial roles. With a similar structure, the Training and education sub-committee is responsible for increasing participation, monitoring training, and the management and involvement of volunteers, while the Finance and HR sub-committee reports to the board on relevant matters.
The Volunteer Forum provides a voice for volunteers and other users, to influence the management of the station, raise any problems, develop programming ideas and devise broadcast events. The Station Manager and Training Manager attend meetings of the Forum. In addition to nominating members for Board election the Forum elects one of its own number to act as Head Volunteer and represent their interests at the sub-committees.
As can be seen an individual may be a member of more then one sub-committee and also a member of the Forum.
Switch Radio. Proposed staffing structure:
*A Volunteer Co-ordinator could also be a separate post.
Only the Station Manager, the Training and Programme Manager, Development Officer and Administrative Officer are full time paid positions, with the tutors and project workers being part-time paid positions delivering specific activities. All other positions are filled by volunteers.
The Switch Radio application defines the roles:
is the chief officer responsible for the day to day running of the station, managing staff and overseeing various operational, legal and contractual functions. Has key responsibilities in fundraising and financial management, marketing and the sale of advertising and sponsorship.
Training and Programme Manager:
is responsible for co-ordinating radio skills training programmes, liaising with training partners and the day to day programming output and functions of the station, including management of volunteers and trainees (the management of volunteers could also be a separate post). Also responsible for music scheduling and the overall management of pre-recorded promotional material and management of technical resources.
is responsible for; identifying and developing projects with community partners across the service area; co-ordinating project staff; sourcing funding; organising promotional events; organising initiatives to encourage increased participation; identifying strategic development opportunities.
generally supports the administrative requirements of the organisation.
is a team of roughly three or four sessional workers who deliver educational projects across the service area.
The Chief Programme Assistant works directly under the Programme Manager to assist in programme management, liaise with presenters, organise on-air competitions and input music on to the play- out system etc. This is the 'Head' Volunteer who works part-time up to 20 hours per week. A team of approximately six Programme Assistants, working five hours each per week, provide research, production and programme administrative support to presenters and producers.
A team of 4 part time tutors (3 paid and one Mentoring volunteer) working between 10 and 20 hours per week to deliver training activities. Individuals may combine this role with a Project Worker role.
Presenters and Producers:
In the region of 45 volunteers and trainees responsible for presenting and producing programmes each week, each working on average for 20 hours per week for daily programme staff and 6 hours per week for single programme presenters.
Switch Radio suggests that the above structure may evolve over time to respond to a hoped-for increase in volunteer involvement. For further discussion about empowerment of volunteers see Section 2.10 and some very useful support materials for this area can also be found in the Community Radio Toolkit website (Radio Regen 2006)
Structure of a commercial radio stationThere are no specific staffing requirements for a commercial radio licence holder other than any commitments, for example a specific amount of journalistic cover, made in the licence application.
Many of the costs of operating a radio station remain fixed regardless of the size of the potential audience: a studio microphone or kilowatt-hour of electricity costs the same regardless of the audience size. A smaller service, with inevitably smaller income expectations, usually becomes sustainable only if it can reduce its variable overheads by, for instance, using fewer paid staff than its larger competitors. Whilst in a large organisation it may be possible to appoint a separate individual to look after each function, in the smallest station a handful of people will each multitask and have a number of roles. However big or small the radio station though there are always a number of key tasks that must be performed every week. The essential difference between a station with a large staff and a small operation is in the degree of specialisation each individual can enjoy.
The staffing structure of each radio station, even within the same group, varies, and with good reason. Where the breakfast presenter happens also to be a qualified engineer why not let them mend equipment every afternoon? If the accountant has a great knowledge of a particular type of music and an appropriate voice why not invite them to host a weekly show (if appropriate to the format)?
Before recruiting the manager should ask whether the station is really making the best use of the people it already has. Real people do not conform to exact skill specifications, it is immensely wasteful to pretend that they do. It is instructive to write down all the key tasks that must be performed every week in the company, listing them in a single column down the left-hand side of several sheets of paper. Then list the number of individual staff posts the station has budgeted for down the right-hand side of the same paper. The challenge is to match the tasks in the left column with the individuals on the right by drawing lines linking each post on the right with a number of tasks on the left. Plainly, in any economically viable scenario many posts must be given responsibility for several different areas.
Tasks might include:
Programme schedulingIn allocating the tasks a live radio service always has to have a back-up plan if the usual means of delivery fails; no one person should ever be indispensable and therefore more than one name should be connected with any essential daily function.
Presenting individual programmes
Compiling what's-on type information
Collating traffic and travel news
Handling listener response
Making on-air trails
Local advertising sales
Local sponsorship sales
Sales promotional activity
National advertising sales
National sponsorship sales
Scheduling commercials (Traffic)
Maintenance of computer networks
Handling station guests and callers
Managing station web site
Managing human resources
Sending out invoices
Liaison with outside bodies
Compliance with broadcast codes and laws
Health and safety
In practice many of these jobs may be performed by freelance or voluntary workers, or contracted to outside bodies. It is essential however that the ultimate responsibility for any key area of the operation remains with someone who feels that they are part of the company and who is committed to the future of the station. The manager must not allow a situation to develop where, for example, invoices are not dispatched for weeks because a freelance found more interesting work elsewhere. We deal with the question of which tasks in a commercial radio station might be performed by volunteers, freelance individuals or outside contractors in Section 2.10.
A typical medium-sized commercial radio station:
The organisational chart shown here corresponds to the internal structure of a typical commercial radio station serving a city of around a quarter of a million people in the early 2000s. The Station Manager described here was performed by a Managing Director who doubled as the Sales Director, and the Programme Controller was also the breakfast show presenter.
The clear division in this chart between the programming and sales functions is a common feature of UK commercial radio, in part due to the requirement in all UK broadcasting legislation (Ofcom 2005) that there be a clear distinction between programming and items included in return for payment. The sales department was responsible for the sale, origination and scheduling of advertisements, sponsorship credits and sponsored promotions and targeted achieving the maximum possible revenue for the company. The programmes side of the operation was more focussed on gathering the largest possible audience. Commercial broadcasting has been described as a strange business where companies make one thing and sell something completely different: one team makes programmes to attract the best possible audience while another team sells access to that audience to advertising clients.
It will be noted that the structure is simpler and more straightforwardly hierarchical than the community radio model illustrated earlier.
As already noted the great majority of commercial radio stations are now controlled by one of the larger radio groups. While the preceding chart suggests that the station exists as a semi-autonomous entity, with only the Managing Director/Sales Director having any contact with the group, the reality is very different in most cases. It can be seen that the station in this example appears to have no provision for commercial production, sales traffic (commercial scheduling), accounting functions or engineering. These functions are all provided from a central location by the group or are sub-contracted by the group to outside suppliers. Such a group will typically also employ group heads of programmes, sales, finance, news, human resources and engineering who will maintain direct contact with relevant management and staff on each station. So whilst the station has an internal structure it is also part of a wider organisational structure based on geographical location and specialist functions that includes internal and external entities similar to many large international businesses (Davis 1992).
For practical reasons groups with a large number of stations distributed around the UK may interject a further layer of regional management, while groups with stations conforming to one or two nationwide brands, for example Heart or Galaxy, may employ brand management to ensure consistency among stations carrying that format. As a result management lines of responsibility are not as clear cut as might be implied by such organograms, in this case the Programme Controller might be more concerned to meet the requirements of a Group Head of Programmes than those of his own Managing Director, who is experienced in a different discipline.
While such group structures undoubtedly bring benefits to the station and listeners alike, giving greater and more experienced management oversight compared with a stand-alone service, this must be balanced against the risk of a loss of local identity and pride in a station which may start to feel like the local branch office of a national brand. The ability to communicate a shared vision and motivate staff in all departments is the great leadership challenge facing the overall station manager in such stations.
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