Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Wednesday, 8 July 2009 17:08 UK
Radio station in tune with community
By Rachel Broome
BBC South East Wales

Rob Ball
Rob Ball and his wife Sue set up the Brynmawr Scene website and community radio station BRFM

When it comes to keeping up to date with what's happening in their community, Brynmawr residents have got it all sorted.

For the past 8 years a lively website and forum has provided news and views about Brynmawr and its history both to locals and people around the world.

More recently a community radio station BRFM has been set up and they're now trialling internet TV.

Around 50 local people of all ages are volunteering at the radio station.

In 2001 husband and wife Rob and Sue Ball were running an opticians in the town. They could see that there was a need locally for information on community news and events.

To fulfil this need they decided to set up a newsletter. It was a success and they were circulating between 200-300 copies in the locality.

The newsletter's success made the couple think of ways of distributing information to a wider community and Sue decided to set up the Brynmawr Scene website.

The website had a very lively forum which was attracting comment, questions and debate not just locally but from around the world. It quickly became a virtual meeting place for those interested in all things local to Brynmawr.

"People who've moved away become very passionate about where they've moved from," says Rob.

Brynmawr Scene quickly became a meeting place across the world for those keen to keep in touch with their Welsh roots.

It's also proved to be a place where issues affecting the community in Blaenau Gwent can be debated. Rob recalls the lively debate on the local forums when Asda opened a supermarket in Brynmawr. More recently the cost of the new town clock in Ebbw Vale has provoked a great deal of comment.

After successfully launching a community website the natural progression for Rob and Sue was to move into radio. In 2004 they decided to trial community radio in the area and applied for a nine day short-term licence.

Mike Rose
Mike Rose presents Tuesday's lunchtime show on BRFM

Rob recalls that at the start it was very daunting: "At the time Sue and I were the only people who were going to take part on the station."

However no sooner had they started broadcasting than local people were contacting them asking how they could get involved. The trial proved very successful and they applied for a further 28 day trial licence.

Rob admits that the popularity of the station and the success of the trial lay in the fact that they were able to report on small local stories and issues that wouldn't normally be picked up by more mainstream media organisations.

Spurred on by the trial's success they applied to Ofcom for a full licence. Unfortunately at first they weren't successful.

However, undaunted they decided to try again, and in the interim continued to apply for funding for equipment and to broadcast over the internet.

The radio station was successful in its next bid to Ofcom for a licence and after clearing all the regulatory hurdles BRFM went on air full time in October 2007 on 97.3FM.

Jessica and Carly, Glyncoed College
Jessica and Carly from Glyncoed College try weather presenting

Rob feels that one of the successes of the radio station is the impact it has socially. Volunteers of all ages and walks of life are brought together to work and it challenges the pre-conceptions that different generations have of each other.

Around 50 local people volunteer at the station in a variety of capacities from tea making to presenting.

The station continues to go from strength to strength winning a Careers Wales Teacher Placement of the Year award in recognition of the work it does with education providers.

It also won a national Talk Talk innovation award which they collected last year from the Houses of Parliament.

Looking to the future, they've been trialling internet television for the past few months. They also have plans to make a TV documentary on Brynmawr and its history for the internet.

Meanwhile Rob is continuing to work hard applying for funding support to ensure the continuation of the station.




SEE ALSO
Audio: Rob Ball on BRFM
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