By Paddy Henry
University radio station Flirt FM is set to receive a significant boost to its coffers, having been granted approval for additional funding as part of a scheme aimed at supporting community radio.
A total of €23.000 in funding through the Sound and Vision scheme looks set to be formally approved in the coming months.
Flirt applied for financial support in September following the expansion of the scheme to provide greater supports for community and student radio.
The station which relies heavily on student volunteers has continued broadcasting throughout the pandemic, despite access to the campus headquarters in Arás na MacLeinn being restricted due to Covid-19 guidelines.
Speaking to SIN, FlirtFM Station Manager Paula Healy welcomed the news and said that the funding will enable them to employ another staff member on a permanent basis and increase their presence within the community.
“For us it’s great and it’s big money and it gives us a huge opportunity.” she said.
” Getting the €23,000 will open up the horizons so much in terms of what we will be able to do. At the moment we have got myself in full-time, Eoghan (Holland), as head of news is part-time, and we have another part timer too, but now we will be able to bump her up to full-time.
Her job will be to go out into the community to try and get as many people on air as possible. That is something we have always wanted to do, and we have always tried to do, but we never had enough people or enough time to do it really well. So basically, that’s where the money is going, it’s huge for us. “
Despite welcoming the additional support Paula noted that the vast majority of the €750,000 fund is being offered to bigger commercial stations and RTÉ;
“I will say that if people think that we are getting minted or something, we’re not. The vast, vast majority of money would go to commercial stations and to RTÉ, and specifically television.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about an increase in radio listenership across the board, and despite the lack of presence on campus this year Flirt has enjoyed a growth in their listenership since the beginning of the pandemic almost a year ago;
“We found that at the start of Covid when everybody was in lockdown there was loads more people listening in, especially online because they weren’t actually in Galway.
We’re never going to get the audience reach of Galway Bay FM, TodayFM, or RTÉ Radio One , but we’ve definitely noticed that people are tuning in just as a way to stay in touch with Galway and to stay back in contact with the University to feel like they are still a part of something. “
Proposals to revise the current student levy, which will be put to a referendum to the student body later this semester will also increase funding to the station if passed. From the €224 levy payment €4.92 goes toward Flirt FM, under the proposed reform this figure would increase to €6 per student.
Aaron Deering, co-host of the JAM Show, a weekly current affairs programme on the station spoke to SIN about the importance of continuing to support community and college radio;
“Community radio is really important and it’s great to get the chance to do what we’re doing at FlirtFM. I’ve been a volunteer for the past four years and I’ve really seen the benefits of community radio from it. I have friends that listen to my show and they’re in colleges all around the country and a lot of them don’t have radio stations. A lot of my friends would be quite jealous of the fact that you have the opportunity to do a radio show and it looks really good on your CV too, so It’s definitely a big advantage to have I definitely hope that community radio will receive more support down the line.”