Media trust: a choice to make

Any George Clooney fans reading this? Whether or not you admire Mr. Clooney, you may be aware of his recent, well publicised spat with the Daily Mail and Mail Online in which he said the publication “makes up its facts.” They apologised – but Clooney has refused to accept the apology.

We’ve heard much lately about dubious media practices: Andy Coulson, former editor of News International’s News of the World, was jailed for 18 months recently. Many reality television shows have been slammed for exploiting their subjects.  And a former counter-terrorism officer has been jailed for attempting to sell information to a newspaper.

So it’s easy to become jaded about the media. To consider it to be manipulative and cynical. To disengage.

But we do have media variety and choice. I’ve been working with Sheffield community radio station, Sheffield Live!, which broadcasts on 93.2FM and through an internet livestream.

Sheffield Live, and community radio stations like it, and many of our well known media outlets, and much loved local magazines such as Now Then and blogs such as The Sheffield Blog, and trusted national publications like New Start, all do have passionate, knowledgeable, presenters or writers who care about their communities of interest – and act with integrity.

At Sheffield Live! I’ve met a diverse and wonderful mixture of voluntary radio presenters – and have even become a voluntary radio presenter myself. The station’s schedule encompasses brilliant and varied music and talk shows. It includes shows in 8 non-English languages. It is a triumph of demand-led programming for independently minded listeners across a range of overlapping niches.

35 to 40,000 people listen to Sheffield Live! every week. The station’s listener survey, conducted earlier this year, showed just how much people love Sheffield Live! They love the station’s “wide range of shows”; presenters’ passion for their music; the diversity and variety of programming; “interesting programmes, presenters you can relate to”;  its inclusivity; “eclectic mix of stuff I wouldn’t hear on other radio stations”; “the freshness and the variety.”

Independent research conducted by Ofcom (the Local Media Attitudes and Use survey, link goes to pdf) finds that television and radio are, by far, the most trusted sources of news amongst adults.

Soon this year, Sheffield Live! Television will come to TV screens. Broadcasting on Freeview Channel 8, Virgin Cable and the internet, the station is set to bring Sheffielders the news and local programming they’ve said they want from local TV. It’s part of a new company – Sheffield Community Media Ltd – set up for community benefit.  It’s a social enterprise. And individuals and businesses have been commenting on how excited they are about the plans.

Right now, Sheffield Community Media is in the final leg of fundraising to purchase equipment and finish the studio facilities for public access and independent production. Once on air, it will benefit from revenue via a contract to supply some news to the BBC – as well as local and national advertising. But it needs capital now – and whilst it can draw upon offers of loan finance, SCM is offering Sheffielders a chance to invest and to be involved – and it aspires to pay investors a modest return.

Scores of Sheffield individuals have already become “community share” owners. People like Jodie Marsh, who said:

“I would really like to take shares in this project as I believe it’s a great opportunity for Sheffield, and as someone working on the frontline in Sheffield within the arts and working with young people and educating them in this area, I believe it could be a great opportunity for Sheffield to put even more onto the creative map of the UK.”

And Peter Johnson, who said: “I’m buying shares in Sheffield Community Media because I’ve always been a huge fan of Sheffield Live radio and if the television channel is going to be anything like the output of the radio, it’ll be a great service for Sheffield.”

Plenty of businesses, social enterprises and organisations are involved. Organisations such as MK PR, The Sheffield Window Centre, Heason Events, Wosskow Brown Solicitors, Thornbridge Brewery / The Greystones, Mercury Taxis, The Sheffield College, The Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, and many more have invested, pledged support, and/or booked advertising to support the station.

And it’s easy to get involved, as a personal or organisational shareholder, with a minimum commitment of £100 which can be paid in 10 instalments if preferred. I’ve invested myself, since I can hardly invite others to do so otherwise! But I believe this has the potential to be something fantastic for Sheffield.

So we have a choice. You have a choice. If you love the idea of locally owned media – media you can trust – bringing you great local news and programming – then do get involved. Become a shareholder in Sheffield Community Media Ltd.

You need to act quickly – the deadline is 14th August – and becoming a shareholder means you can get involved as much as you want to in your exciting, cross-platform television and radio operation. Made in Sheffield, Made by You. Please become part of it.

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