SBN, the Student Broadcast Network, who for several years have been providing a sustainer service to student radio stations, announced on 23rd July that they are going into insolvency. SBN pay money to student stations across the country for them to broadcast syndicated shows and hourly advert breaks. However, SBN have continually made losses and their parent company, Campus Media plc, has taken the decision not to provide SBN with any further funding, forcing SBN to go into liquidation.
Many student stations rely heavily on SBN to wholly fund their low powered AM licenses. SBN have also provided part funding to stations running short term FM licenses. The news means that many student radio stations across the country will suddenly have to find their own funding for the radio licenses they operate. As well as this, SBN own the transmitters (worth 9000 pounds) of some stations - assets which the company may claim back from the stations.
In a statement made by the Student Radio Association, the SRA say that they have had no communication with SBN other than the official press release, and that the news 'could have serious implications for a number of our member stations'.
Student Unions will probably be the first port of call for many stations facing such a crisis, but not all student unions will be prepared to pay out. With a limited broadcast range, and a typically low average listenership, it's difficult, if not impossible, for student stations to be completely commercially funded.
Luckily, the implications for the student station I work for, Rare FM at UCL, is less affected than most, as we at least have our own transmitter and rely less on SBN funding. However, it does put an extra pressure on us to generate more commercial income and seek new funding sources.