Online community radio station ready to take to the air

AN online radio station lobbying for airtime has recorded one million internet hits in less than a year.

Organisers at community station East Coast FM are hoping broadcast regulator Ofcom will reward their hard work by granting them an FM frequency when the next round of licences are handed out.

The Haddington-based station, which boasts web listeners from as far afield as Ohio in the US and broadcasts seven days a week, is pressing hard for a community broadcast licence, lodging a 150,000-strong petition to Ofcom in July, 60,000 more signatures than the population of East Lothian.

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Among the influential figures backing the campaign is county MP Fiona O'Donnell, who recently invited station bosses to a meeting with Ed Vaizy MP, Minister for Culture with responsibility for communication, who praised their commitment to radio.

With a groundswell of support behind them and impressive online listener figures, the volunteers at East Coast FM are optimistic about becoming the Lothians' newest broadcasters in the new year.

"One million hits on the 'listen live' section of the website is an amazing achievement," said Ian Robertston, one of the station's volunteers.

"It's a major success for a community radio station that has only been operating for the last year.

"Everyone is elated, we have 57 volunteers and everyone is jumping up and down about it.

"We began broadcasting on the internet in the second week of January and before that were live on FM for four weeks.

"We hit the million mark on December 10. It's absolutely incredible, we cannot get over it and have even been congratulated by Ofcom for our figures."

The London meeting with Ofcom and the Communications Minister was "very positive", said Mr Robertson, and he would be disappointed if East Coast do not make the transition from internet to wireless in 2011.

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"I think we are definitely in with a shout, and I'm hoping we will have a frequency by April," he said.

"Our internet listeners will drop a bit because that's the way these things go, but I think we will keep some of them as we have quite a big listenership from abroad."

He added: "We will to go through the roof if we get on radio.

"How we have got to where we are is just 100 per cent hard work from all the volunteers. It's the enthusiasm from everyone that has got us where we are today.

"It's went from 'maybe' to 'this could really happen'.

"There are community radio stations in county's surrounding East Lothian so why not here as well?"

East Lothian MP Ms O'Donnell hailed the radio station's "incredible achievement".

"They have listeners not just in East Lothian but all over the world," she said.

"That has the potential to boost tourism for East Lothian, I've hear someone in America even ordered beer from Belhaven Brewery in East Lothian on the back of logging on to the station website.

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"The whole team are just so enthusiastic, and I am desperately keen that Ofcom give them a chance to realise their full potential when the next round (of community licences] are announced."