The future of Bute Fm

Originally published on February 15, 2012

 

AS a former presenter on Bute’s local radio station Bute Fm and one of a number of volunteers who resigned over management concerns since its launch in August 2009, I continue to hold an interest in the future of the station.

Waves of concern rippled across Bute after the station’s first AGM on August 9 2010, at which director and breakfast show presenter, Mike Blair, was “voted” off the board of directors and promptly told to gather his belongings and leave the building.

The events following that day are well documented:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/breakfast-dj-s-sacking-makes-waves-at-island-radio-station-1.1052003

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/island-s-station-broke-its-pledge-to-listeners-1.1075900

I was surprised recently to learn that the post of station manager was being advertised on the Bute Fm website.

http://www.butefm.com/complaints/

Former station manager and director of Bute Fm, Iain Donald, was at the centre of the storm that surrounded the station after August 2010. Donald achieved great things in getting Bute Fm off the ground and that credit shouldn’t be taken from him. His handling of the Mike Blair situation perhaps highlighted his inexperience in the field.

However, his actions following Mike Blair’s dismissal raised eyebrows. He appointed his father, Alan Donald, onto the board of directors almost immediately after Blair’s departure. The companies involved are private limited companies and it may be the case that the community has no right to demand how they are run.

But when the existence of the station has relied on funding from public bodies and the time and generosity of volunteers and members of the community, people could be forgiven for wanting to know what was going on. And when the only salaried employee was Iain Donald as station manager – receiving a salary in the region of £14,000 for the period of a year’s employment thank to an Ofcom grant – some people felt that undemocratically appointing a parent onto the board of directors was something of concern.

The job advertisement makes it clear the post of station manager will be a voluntary one this time around.

Business development manager funding

It has emerged that the station received further funding from Ofcom for a business development manager. In the second round of grants from the community radio fund 2011/12, Bute Fm was awarded £13,520 for the part-time position. It is not clear who the business development manager is, and there is no record of a job advertisement on the Bute Fm website, unlike the advert for a voluntary station manager.

http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/broadcasting/radio/community-radio-fund/11-12-round-2

Regardless, I hope that whoever is successful in their application to become Bute Fm’s second station manager will bring a fresh approach at the station. Iain Donald should continue at least some involvement with the station overall as he continues to be a director.

IBTV

He is also director and secretary of another Bute-based company, although one which appears to be inactive. IBTV (Isle of Bute Television) was set up in July 2010 with founding directors Iain Donald, Robin Chandler and Graham Leonard.  IBTV is not to be confused with a separate project on Bute called Bute TV, a project which I am involved in. Bute TV is a new idea set up to embrace the emergence of online TV on a local scale.

http://butebites.com/2011/11/16/excitment-as-bute-tv-launches/

It’s unclear which path IBTV had planned to go down, but after receiving  £8,400 of funding in February 2011 from Awards For All, there has been no significant activity from the company. The funding award stated:  “The project run by IBTV (Isle of Bute Television) aims to help the unemployed and young people gain accredited qualifications and work. This grant will fund sessional co-ordinator costs, the costs for a Launch Event , arts costs and crafts costs.”

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:DfoN3_6YSWIJ:news.biglotteryfund.org.uk/a4ascot_feb_2011.xls+Isle+of+Bute+Television+funding+IBTV&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

It’s unclear who the sessional co-ordinator was, although director and long-term partner of Iain Donald, Robin Chandler, has her occupation listed as “project co-ordinator” with companies house. There has never been a launch event or any other trace of what the £8,400 achieved.

It’s unfortunate that it appears to have had no success and I hope that the project I am involved in will do better. Our group has not received any funding but we are up and running, you can have a look at what we’re doing on our Facebook page.

The future

I fear that nothing significant will change at Bute Fm under the current board of directors. It has certainly been made clear that I am not welcome at my community radio station in any way, which is unfortunate.

I had hoped that full membership of the companies would be opened to all members of the community – Bute Community Media Ltd, Bute Fm’s parent company, is a registered charity after all – but I suspect that will never be the case. The right to vote would mean the right to choose directors and have a say, and I don’t believe the Donald father and son will afford that luxury to the islanders they claim to serve.

Bute Community Land Company has shown that full membership and community input IS achievable. Bute Fm has yet to provide me with a satisfactory explanation as to why they will not follow the same path.

Whether it’s IBTV or another project Iain Donald devotes his time to in the future, I sincerely hope he has learned lessons from his management period at Bute Fm.

The station can still be a great asset to the island and I would urge members of the Bute community to always demand better.

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