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Stroud tunes into easy listening;FE Focus

IT STARTED as a small college radio station giving hands-on experience to media students. Now EASYfm is set to hit the airwaves 24-hours a day as an independent local radio station.

The station in Stroud, Gloucestershire, has been granted a full-time broadcasting licence by the Radio Authority and aims to go on the air in October.

Its driving force is Mike Ganley, head of media studies at Stroud College. He will become the new station's managing director, and will host its breakfast programme.

A former radio and television producer, he began the project six years ago as a way of giving students practical radio experience.

He set up a radio station in the college's media studies department and won a restricted service licence, enabling the station to broadcast to the outside community for four weeks a year.

"It proved very popular," he said. "It was real radio - not just getting work experience in a vacuum. The students got a real grounding from doing live radio and they got the interactivity of a real audience. They could go into town and hear people listening to it on their car radios."

When the opportunity came up to apply for a full-time broadcasting licence, Mr Ganley put the idea to management at Stroud College.

But he said they declined because of lack of resources and the difficulties of running a full-time radio station from the college.

"I said 'OK, will you let me?' They said yes - if you want to do it, it's up to you. So I formed my own company and I raised the quarter of a million to do it."

Backed by Southern Bailey Newspapers and UK Radio Developments, EASYfm will operate from studios in Stroud town centre.

Its target audience will be aged 30 and above, and it will broadcast local news, music and general interest programmes 24 hoursa day.

The station will cover a radius of 25 miles and aims to reach an estimated 200,000 listeners.

Although there will be no formal link with Stroud College, Mr Ganley said the new station will still have an education role.

"We plan to continue offering meaningful working placements to all the media students in our area. And there will also be every weekday evening a two-hour programme that will be produced by local media students.

"And we are having preliminary discussions with a higher education institution for an HNC course run jointly with the radio station and the college. So we haven't forgotten education by any means," Mr Ganley said.

"We are not part of a huge organisation like other radio stations. We are a community radio station and we want to give something back to our community."

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