Like Flavor Flav, I typically don’t believe the hype.
But when I read that ResonanceFM, the community radio station run since 2002 by the London Musician’s Collective was calling itself “the best radio station in the world,” I stopped and thought about it.
I think I agree.
Resonance is one of about 100 community radio stations that have sprung up in the UK under the experimentation of the national telecom authority. The country has a storied tradition of state broadcasting (what were they called again?), and developed private commercial broadcast entities in the last 40 years. But the idea of community control of content at a radio station, responsive to local needs, didn’t really exist before the liberalization of licenses in the last decade. (For an overview of getting a community radio license in the UK- and I know you’ve been thinking about it in your spare time – go here.)
I stumbled upon ResonanceFm in 2003, right after they started terrestial and internet casts. Their micro transmitter covers part of central and south London, and they’ve always had some type of web component (now extended to podcasts and blogs for the communities they are encouraging).
I knew it was a community radio station when I saw the pdf of their program grid (that uber-quilt community radio calendar), but the thing I’ve admired listening to it the last three years has been its willingness to experiment, its diversity of content, and its ability to embrace intellectual content and art.
Community radio in the U-S I’ve come across almost always have a populist strain. But like much populist culture in the U-S, it also carries a distrust of intellectualism (you make the argument if that’s healthy or unhealthy). It’s the mirror image of the distrust Western intellectuals of all stripes have of modern culture (I gave up reading Adorno when he told me jazz was a fascist art form…He must have listened to too much Paul Whiteman.)
Have a listen for yourself and tell me what you think.