Personal View – What does £50 get us?

What Does £50 a year get us?

They have been my exact words for the last year at every Hospital Radio meeting, event and gathering, and it’s in relation to the Hospital Broadcast Association (HBA).

Over the years, the charity have been members of the HBA
(plus it’s former NAHBO), but in recent times have seen the membership fees hike up to £50 a year.
I first started volunteering with the charity it was about £20 – 30 a year! so why the almost double in price?

Well it’s something I can’t find the answer to.

The HBA is an organisation that represents Hospital Radio across the UK, it has  regional reps that are supposed to interact with the stations, encouraging sharing of ideas, information, support and advice, feeding back concerns to the main body of the HBA, there was/is a training sessions, plus the annual conference and awards.

But recent years, the subscription seems to have increased, but the service offered has decreased, a lot. There isn’t even a regional representatives anymore – and this is exactly where my issue is.

Stations where asked to fill out questionnaires as to what the HBA could do to improve some years before, which this data is supposed to shape the way the service is delivered.

In 2015, the HBA undertook a review of it’s self, as it highlighted areas it was struggling in, admitting it hasn’t been operating as well as it should, stating “A full review of the operation and structure of the organisation focusing on what HBA needs deliver to its constituent membership.”

The charities I’ve worked with have suffered major problems with a Bedside TV provider, I communicated with the HBA to advice to see if there was any legal standing for the charity equivalent of loss of earnings or damage to reputation etc caused by badly maintained third party system (now removed).
I got one answer, which was go to another third party TV company that work with the HBA.
Now the Charity doesn’t run the contracts for the TV’s. It’s the Hospital Trusts that runs the building, they manage it. However, they had already stated they don’t want any more third-party systems that charges patients to use it!
As far as advice goes, it wasn’t exactly helpful.

Following this I attended the HBA annual conference in Newcastle and asked outright, “listening to everything said, and constant talk of restructure, are the HBA fit purpose anymore?”

I got a blunt answer of “yes” and was ignored the rest of the conference.

Feeling my questions remain unanswered, I started asking my fellow volunteers at the Charity if they felt it was value for money, the responses I initially received where interesting; More than half of my own fellow volunteers didn’t know what the HBA are or what they did.

So into 2017, we asked the charity volunteers again, who felt they didn’t know much about the HBA, so we organised for a rep to come in and explain what the HBA does exactly. – The first visit we’ve had in years.

Following the presentation, some interesting feedback was gathered from the volunteers. Some now think we shouldn’t renew as it’s not worth it,  a couple  have signed up to their website as affiliates of our charity.
The remainder are uninterested as it doesn’t affect how we run.

So why exactly am I disgruntled?

I’ve asked questions, and don’t feel helped at all. I’ve never had a follow up to ask if the issues was resolved or are ongoing.
Then other things annoy me,

  • The Conference – Has a sizeable fee
  • The Awards Gala – Additional fee
  • Some Training sessions – Has a fee

As far as £50 goes… what did it actually get us?

I’ve established this;

  • A monthly e-newsletter – Freely produced by mailchimp.
  • A Quarterly e-magazine – Funded by advertising (Note this used to be printed and posted, now digital only).
  • Access to a Forum – That you can wait weeks / months for a reply.
  • Apply for grants – Issued three times a year, but can’t recall the last time I heard of one being rewarded.

Mat, why not offer solutions?

Oh easy – shut it down and start again.

  • Reduction in Annual Subscriptions – I would estimate at the moment at least £10,000 is made on subs alone (200 stations x £50 each)  Let’s half the price of that to £25.00. Alternatively, go in for a higher fee (say £100 PA) but do a price freeze for  five to 10 years. In both cases keep a close eye on spending and review. Plus I’d have have an agreement as to what’s expected from the HBA & the stations – We have a volunteer contract stating what we both get out of it.
  • Cheaper Conference prices and FREE Training sessions – Conference day pass is about £50 expect something like 200 – 400 people? That’s again another £10+K – The event pays for itself after-all!
  • More interaction with your members – actually asking them what challenges they are confronting. – This will ultimately result in the members of the individual charities interacting with the HBA more. Plus paint a picture nationally of what problems there are.
  • See what vast changes across the NHS are happening, find out what the landscape looks like and what direction is it going.
  • Is it time that Hospital radio, become ‘Health Radio’ and serves a local community, rather than a site…  (This should have been done years ago when community radio licences where issued!)
  • Better levels of negotiation at a higher-level (and legal level).
    • Challenge Ofcom to support Health & Hospital Radio – Give HR’s big discounts or funding help to become small scale DAB (Mini-Mux DAB) before the community ones – OR offer solutions to partner up with community and small ILR for local DAB.
    •  Challenge PPL & PRS over licences fees (Hardwired, FM/AM, Online Fees would easily cost a HR station £1200+)
  • Consider the feasibility to pay people to run the HBA.

    Member organisations are finding it difficult to encourage and retain volunteers and find new trustees.  The HBA at a national level should consider payment (even if part time) to actually run it’s affairs.  It’s clearly struggling on Volunteer power alone. Costs can be covered via grants and commercial partnerships and sponsors…
    Here’s a free idea for the HBA:  In the ‘agreement’ (see first point above)
    have the ability for the HBA to sell Spot Advertising / Commercials, These adverts can be national (200 odd stations) or regional (Essex has around 6 HR Stations) The regional adverts could come with a donation clause to ensure station in the region receive a % to members stations to play it
    Could likely work with some some national brands and agencies.

(If any of the above is done… I’ll probably won’t receive any credit for my ideas)

So what does £50 get us? 

At the present, in the current situation – it seems very little.

The organisation as a whole is a good idea!
I’m just disappointing it’s not delivering or performing as it should.

It needs to change and modernise, but not take so long to do so.

All views here are Personal to myself, and are not those of the HBA or any of the members or charities associated.