Audience Dialogue

Participative Marketing for Local Radio, Chapter 1
What is radio marketing? section 6

1.6 The three-legged model of funding

Community radio in some countries (Australia, for example) uses a "three-legged" model for funding. Community stations recognize that the more sources of funds they use, the more stable their income should be, and the less susceptible they should be to distorting influences. Therefore they try to spread their income about equally between three types of source: listeners, government (or other large funders) and advertisers.

The three-legged model is the basis of this book. There's a chapter on each of the three sources of funding, explaining how to tap that source by returning something of value back to the source.

But it's never simple. You have to survive financially without sacrificing your major purpose - which might be to help your community. The danger with the three-legged model is that any of the three sources might think "Why should we give money to that station, when it has all those other sources of funds?"

The long-term solution, looking back to the diagram of the exchange model, is to provide each of the three sources with something that it values. Thus:

For all three sources, this is as much a matter of managing perceptions, as of making objective measures.

Consider how the three goals fit in with the three-legged model of funding. If you also consider the need to build relationships with stakeholders, now you can see how marketing can be used to achieve your station's goals. In other words:

For each of these stakeholder groups, the challenge for marketing is to satisfy their needs, without compromising those of other stakeholders. You need to demonstrate to each funding source that you are worthy of their funds. This demonstration is the essence of marketing.

Try to imagine your station from the point of view of each of these three groups, considering whether they highly value the service you are providing. For example, what could the advertisers be telling one another about your station? What would you like the listeners to say to the government about your station? It's all too easy to delude yourself about this, so objective audience research (discussed in the next chapter) can be very helpful.

Each funding source brings some problems with it, because (since it's marketing) an exchange is involved. For the money they give you, they expect something in return. Taking too much notice of any one source can distort your programming and damage your reputation for integrity. The likely problems include:

These are real dilemmas, not easily solved. But you can reduce the pressures by diversifying your funding sources, and building strong support in your local community.


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