LONDON (Jan. 28)
Britain’s only Jewish radio station has gone live for its third stint on the air.
While its current license only lasts for four weeks, those behind the station hope that ShalomFM will be a permanent fixture on the community-based broadcasting dial by the end of the year.
“We are one of the few ethnic groups in London without a radio voice, and it would be nice to hear some balanced reporting about the community and Israel,” says the station’s co-founder, Mike Mendoza.
Mendoza, a veteran late-night phone-in DJ with a popular London radio station, is pinning his hopes for a permanent license on new broadcasting laws that promote community-based stations.
The station has also already secured the support of 30 members of Parliament and has been endorsed by the Board of Deputies, the umbrella organization of British Jewry.
“It is excellent news that British Jewry will have the opportunity to listen and participate in their own radio station. This will provide a rare opportunity for great discussion both within the Jewish community and amongst the public at large,” the board’s president, Henry Grunwald said regarding the relaunching.
But the station faces an uphill battle to convince listeners to tune in to its programs, which range from Jewish dating shows to the Chabad-Lubavitch hour to Jewish music programs.
London’s airwaves are crammed with local and national stations and the growing popularity of unlicensed pirate stations.
“The aim is to be as good as a good local radio station, and I think we have a real chance of achieving that,” says Mendoza, who believes the key to broadcasting success is recognizing the religious diversity of London’s 196,000-strong Jewish community.
“As far as religion is concerned we’re happy to accommodate right, left or center. Everyone has a voice on ShalomFM — that’s a guarantee,” Mendoza says.
The station, based in the borough of Barnet — where London’s largest Jewish population lives — will for the first time be available outside its signal boundary through live streaming over the Internet.
ShalomFM was criticized the previous two times it was on air for having too weak a signal. And although signal strength has been improved, many will still need the Internet to listen in.
ShalomFM is reminding disgruntled Jewish Londoners that the static is all the more reason to get behind the bid for a permanent license — gaining that status would bring the station additional signal strength.
In the meantime the station’s founders are convinced ShalomFM has an important part to play in bringing young Jews back into the fold.
“Young members of our community can identify with Judaism through a medium that doesn’t push religion down their throats, while at the same time bringing them back to their roots,” station co-founder Richard Ford says.
And one young host of ShalomFM’s late-night music program, Daniel Silverstein, believes the station has got the right ingredients to do just that.
“I really think radio as a medium is ideal for opening up the Jewish world, both to Jews and non-Jews, and I know they’ve worked really hard to get the right mix of programming,” the 24-year-old community worker and part- time rapper says.