Audience Dialogue

Participative Marketing for Local Radio, Chapter 8
Funding from grants: section 1

This chapter considers ways of getting large amounts of money from funding agencies: governments, NGOs, and private foundations.

Increasingly, all of these are demanding detailed plans and information before they will give you a grant. So before applying for a grant, you should begin to gather the financial and audience information that may be needed. This may involve surveys (which can take months to plan and carry out) and external auditors.

8.1 Regular government funding

Government-owned stations usually get most of their funding in an annual allocation from the government. This can be the national government, a regional government, a local government, or some combination of these. The commonest situation seems to be that government radio is funded by the national government, but in some countries (Germany, Vietnam, Ethiopia) government funding comes from regional or provincial government.

Whichever level of government provides the funding, there's usually one government department - often called the Treasury or Department of Finance - that has the most influence on the change in the amount provided each year.

Funding from governments comes from two main sources: general taxation revenue, and licence fees. If you have can have any influence on this, the licence fee system is considered best, because it makes radio less dependent on favours from the current government. But when inflation is very high, and radio stations receive the fees a year or two after the amounts are set, there's something to be said for direct government funding. This funding doesn't usually go to individual stations, but to national broadcasters and federations of stations.

The marketing tactics needed to get increased government funding are quite different from those discussed in preceding chapters. Your station needs to communicate with the decision-makers hidden in the government structure, and to convince them that you are worthy of more funding. Therefore, you need to find out exactly who makes the funding decisions, and what criteria they use.

The criteria in this case will probably be nothing to do with the popularity or excellence of your programming. The largest influence may be your perceived efficiency, and your standard of financial administration. But it also may depend on personal factors: knowing key decision-makers, or being able to exchange favours with them. It's far from an ideal situation, but in some countries this type of marketing is an unfortunate fact of life. It's known as lobbying - or even as bribery and corruption.

The vital factor with recurrent funding is to avoid cuts in your budget. If your funding is cut in one year, the effect of that will probably flow through to every subsequent year. To avoid cuts you need to convince the decision makers that:

(a) you desperately need the money, and
(b) their lives will become more difficult if you don't get it, and
(c) you are performing a valuable public service.

They probably won't care much about (a), or won't believe you. Item (b) is likely to concern them more. The public servant who is thinking of reducing your budget by 5% may hesitate if this will cause government members of parliament to be voted out of office at the next election, and if this in turn may result in his demotion to a dreary rural area.

For a decision to be made in your favour, you need to convince the decision maker that item (c) above is true - or is at least a highly plausible argument. Without this belief in the public's belief, they will not be able to justify to themselves an increase in your funding.

Public servants around the world seem to share a common motivation: avoiding trouble. In contrast, independent radio stations often like to create trouble, by raising difficult questions about issues the government would rather not make public. Therefore, you may have to manage a thorny relationship with your government funding agency.

It's not only money that you need to lobby for. When you have these skills and these contacts, you can also lobby for favourable laws (e.g. on copyright and royalties) and on frequency allocations for new transmitters.


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