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Quindo Reaches for the Social Element

Educational station uses radio to help vulnerable kids grow, both professionally and personally

KORTRIJK, Belgium — With more than 150 volunteers, Kortrijk-based radio station Quindo is Flanders’ only web radio recognized by the Flemish government as a community radio and “media lab.” The station recently took delivery of a new mobile broadcast studio.

The station was founded in March 2012 by the New Media Communications and Journalism department of the Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen (Howest, University of West Flanders) as a media lab for its students.

Tom Christiaens is coordinator of Quindo radio. Credit: Quindo According to Tom Christiaens, Quindo radio coordinator, Howest wanted to launch an online platform to demonstrate the students’ results of their studies.

“When public radio broadcaster VRT Radio 2 West Flanders moved to new premises, leaving their radio studios empty, we decided to set up an ‘on-air’ studio and a technical room in these studios. The rooms, furnished with wooden panels, have great acoustics — we installed new mains circuitry, IT system cabling in the on-air studio, and the second room was modified to become a classroom for workshops and courses.”

Christiaens said they wanted the studios to be fully digital so they installed an Axia IQ with telco expansion and QOR32 core console with Livewire AoIP. The studio is also equipped with a Zenon 7.45 playout system for playlist management, four Neumann BCM 705 mics and two Genelec 8040A monitors.

“The audio signal is routed via Livewire to a PC featuring Omnia A/XE software, encoding the signal to MP3. Quindo uses an Icecast server over the Howest network for final streaming of the signal,” said Christiaens.

Quindo radio broadcasts from a barge on the river Leie in Kortrijk, Belgium, during the annual Whitsunday festival in 2015. Credit: Sieglinde Iserbyt SOCIAL EMPHASIS
Although the roots of Quindo radio rest with the Howest school, Christiaens points out that “Quindo is not only a campus radio” but is specifically designed to operate outside school walls. “The former VRT radio building has been rebaptized the “Muziekcentrum” (Music Center) and hosts a number of music-related initiatives, such as the “De Kreun” concert hall, a baroque music orchestra and the annual Festival of Flanders,” he said. “We’re close to the local cultural sector — being together in one building results in great collaboration.”

At press time, Quindo was broadcasting from a temporary location. The city of Kortrijk is currently refurbishing the Muziekcentrum . The station’s studio equipment was relocated just before summer and Christiaens expects to move back to the completely renovated Muziekcentrum by mid-2017.

In addition to Howest’s strategy to use Quindo radio as shop window for their creative courses, the city of Kortrijk wanted to establish itself as a music city, both in creation and concerts.

“Quindo radio is the perfect tool: we pick up young artists rehearsing in the basement of the building, they then perform at a concert in the in-house concert venue, which is then aired on Quindo — true organic evolution,” he said.

The city of Kortrijk welcomed the Quindo radio project, providing the station met three criteria. These include that the station cater to 16- to 30-year-olds, and that listeners contribute to the station’s content, through smartphone reporting and digital story telling. Secondly, the station must remain an educational initiative — a radio station where students in journalism or communication management work side-by-side with other students who are passionate about radio, music and media. “The staff is made up of kids from all social backgrounds,” said Christiaens.

The station also must guarantee “social inclusion” and sets up approximately 75 workshops or masterclasses per year, open to all youngsters.

“The idea is to offer opportunities to all kinds of local kids, whatever their background, education, nationality, religion or sexual orientation might be,” continued Christiaens. “We broadcast programs from the Bruges state prison and work with drug addicts, disabled people, migrant children and underpriveliged children. The goal is to include vulnerable kids so they can work together with other volunteers on media productions. For example, today we have a wheelchair patient hosting an art program and an autistic young man who puts together playlists.”

In April, Queen Mathilde paid a visit to the Quindo studio during the broadcast of “Radio Respect,” hosted by David Marinelli. Credit: Djanlissa Pringels ROYAL RECOGNITION
In Belgium’s April Queen Mathilde paid a visit to Quindo and decided to support the station with an annual donation of €15,000 per year for two years. “It’s exactly the social element, and building bridges between young people, glued together by passion for radio and true interest in youngsters that inspired the queen’s fund to support us,” said Christiaens.

Today, Quindo is mainly financed by Howest, which pays for the cost of the infrastructure and Christiaens’ salary as a full-time coordinator. The city of Kortrijk provide the funds for one part-time media lecturer and one full time social worker.

“Because we’re an educational radio, we don’t carry any kind of advertising — we’re a nonprofit organization and commerce doesn’t match our profile,” said Christiaens.

Since the beginning, Quindo has enjoyed increasing popularity but the station remains a webcaster for a number of reasons, says Christiaens. “It’s not our goal to compete with existing stations or formats on the FM dial, and we have a completely different profile.”

He added, “We also benefit from a particular status, without any financial bonus however. Alongside the public radio and commercial radio, the Flemish regulatory body has introduced ‘educational radio,’ so-called community radio, and that’s our label.”

Christiaens added that the reasons for not applying for an FM liscence also apply to DAB+. “As a media lab we’re always on the lookout for new technology — if initiating DAB+ broadcast wwere possible at a reasonable cost, we could consider adding a DAB+ channel. But already today, with our on-line streaming program, we have a considerable invoice to pay in author’s rights.”

Journalism students Regisha Carton, Thies Deryckere and Thibault Devoldere, prepare their program during a lecture at Howest University College. Credit: Tom ChristiaensMOBILE STUDIO
In March, Quindo introduced its new mobile radio studio. The pocket-sized radio station was sponsored by the local Lion’s Club circle “Liederik,” as part of its mission to support social projects. “In the past, when we did location broadcasts, we had to carry around boxes and cases, not really practical,” said Christiaens. “We had built a single flightcase based on our relatively high requirements. We needed sufficient mic inputs and a studio configuration comparable to what we have in our on-air room.”

The Quindo mobile radio studio is fitted with an Axia IQ console, a Zenon Media 7.45 playout system, two Shure SM7 mics on Yellowtec mika stands, two extra guest mic inputs, two active Monkey Banana Gibbon 5 studio monitors, two Yamaha DXR10 active PA speakers and four beyerdynamic DT770 pro headphones.

“The concept of the mobile studio is maximum user-friendliness combined with high-quality broadcast equipment,” explained Bas Boone, independent media solutions architect, who designed and built the mobile on-air kit.

“The mobile studio is set-up in less than five minutes, just plug [in the mains cable] and play. Livewire allows soundcard-less transport of linear audio between playout and console. All of the cabling is carried out in Cat-5. That’s one of Livewire’s strong points: no standard audio cables required.”

The mobile studio has already been used in the Bruges federal prison and during numerous workshops, festivals and events, mostly focusing on the station’s social commitment.

“Personally I think that we manage to help youngsters grow, both professionally and personally by using radio as a key medium,” concluded Christiaens. “The fact that our volunteers have improved their media and social skills or got a job thanks to their work for Quindo, is our biggest reward.”

Marc Maes reports on the industry for Radio World from Antwerp, Belgium.