Just a little over a week ago, the community radio organization I work for, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, unveiled the agenda for its 2019 Community Media Conference. As community radio events, rare as they are, go, this one is notable, since the last NFCB national conference was in 2017.
Scheduled for June 18–20 of this year in San Diego, the Community Media Conference is significant for a few different reasons.
NFCB’s event is virtually the founding parent of noncommercial media gatherings. The Community Media Conference traces its lineage back to the early to mid-1970s, when NFCB was founded out of alternative media conventions that occurred in Madison, Wis. and Boulder, Colo. These first gatherings predated many of the designations we in radio and noncommercial educational radio in particular know today. In fact, the initial conferences were held because there was a sense that the currents of locally focused, public-oriented broadcasting needed a voice, and a chance to structure themselves around matters of need as well as importance.
Out of the early NFCB conferences came things like a programming exchange, a producers of color convention (held in 1982) and nascent advocacy work before Congress and the Federal Communications Commission. As such, the Community Media Conference holds a valuable place in history as the oldest and best-known gathering for community radio.
However, in this media-saturated world, memories are short. The vast majority of people seem to tend toward finding the backstory interesting. But they want to know what is happening now. It is not an unfair demand. In truth, it is one all community media should abide by, rather than assume your history will always carry the day.
In this instance, the 2019 Community Media Conference seems to have checked a number of boxes, but squarely leans in the growth of stations. Fundraising sessions on building underwriting programs, pledge drives and raising one’s annual budget figure prominently on the schedule. In addition, several panels with attorneys are likely to assist station general managers wading through the difficult revenue, regulatory and other questions they experience on a daily basis.
Speaking of sticky questions, two intensives being held may end up top of the priority list for some leaders. One workshop covers the ins and outs of human resources, one of the most perplexing areas for community radio stations, oftentimes because finding a good human resources professional to guide a station can be elusive. Whether it is the issue of workplace civility or hiring and termination, there is no shortage of potent human resources topics NFCB’s conference may help you unravel.
In addition, another intensive on major giving could prove helpful to any station, no matter their size. Learning the means by which one can and should make the pitch for a bequest or larger contribution, and even how to lay the groundwork to do it, is game-changing information. Whether you are at a low-power station or a full-power outlet, it is a safe bet a few of your listeners are capable of a sizable legacy gift or one that can lift up your organization in the years to come. Led by a seasoned fundraiser, this focused three-hour session is going to prime a lot of attendees with the courage and skills to seek bigger donations.
The conference offers plenty of programming red meat too. With sessions on music reports and licensing, featuring one of SoundExchange’s key names; to remaking your morning drive programming; to ethics in community media; to an intensive on audio production, there are many conversations sure to be of interest to program directors, news directors and community media journalists.
However, there are many more attractive panels in store. Radio Research Consortium’s Dave Sullivan is set to examine listening trends for noncommercial radio in what is sure to be a blockbuster session. There are technical sessions in store. Your station can even get some grounding in consensus decision-making while you are in San Diego. Another full track takes on community engagement. And there are yet to be announced keynotes in store too. You can see the schedule here.
Training and mentorship remain, even today, one of the glaring problem areas in community media. Such is a big reason why gatherings like the 2019 Community Media Conference are so crucial for stations. My hope is that many community radio stations can come and, in the process, get the rhetorical jet fuel they need to ramp up their endeavors as well as their aspirations. Time may tell.