THE programmes being broadcast this week from three small studios in

the basement of a sandstone villa in the market town of Keith, Moray,

will reach an audience of 300 at the most.

The special equipment needed to tune into Keith Community Radio makes

it expensive, but after four years in operation plans are underway to

join their ''big brothers'' on the airwaves.

The aim is to become one of the hundreds of new community radio

stations set to blossom throughout the UK under the new Broadcasting

Bill due to go before Parliament next summer.

Lying midway between Northsound in Aberdeen and Moray Firth Radio in

Inverness, Keith is strategically situated for such a project. Had it

not been for a matter of four miles on a Home Office map it might

already have been on air as one of 20 guinea pig stations in the UK.

''We applied for an incremental contract to be one of the first on air

but we failed, purely on a technicality,'' explained station manager, Mr

Donald Barbour. ''The stations had to lie within the coverage area of an

existing independent local radio station and we applied under the

umbrella of Moray Firth Radio, only to find that we were outside their

coverage area by 6kms. Had we been successful we would have been able to

broadcast on the airwaves instead of the British Telecom landlines as we

have to do at present.''

That would have been a far cry from the first broadcast in February

1986 -- a half-hour programme from what Mr Barbour described as ''a

rather Heath Robinish set-up''.

''Since then we have built up a fair degree of acceptable broadcasting

quality and we now have over 4500 tapes and records and a bank of

trained broadcasters on which to lean,'' said Mr Barbour.

The station, which has just recived the #1000 top award in Grampian

Regional Council's community development scheme, started off under the

Manpower Services Commission's community programme and is now run under

the auspices of Employment Training. It has a steering committee,

composed of a local solicitor, a regional councillor, a district

councillor, a chief nursing officer and the manager of Keith Community

Education Centre and is also integrated with a local group, Balloch

Trust Enterprises Ltd, which supplies training within the Keith and

Buckie areas.

''Our project is concerned mainly with training in broadcasting

communications, interviewing techniques and media studies,'' said Mr

Barbour. ''Over the four years we have had a 100% success rate with the

14 youngsters who have been here, all finding jobs, either at the end of

their year's training or during the time they were here.''

The station broadcasts to the local Turner Memorial Hospital, two old

people's homes and Keith Community Education Centre. The morning

programme, from 10.45am to 1pm incorporates local news, weather,

interviews, poetry and bothy ballads and there is a one and a half hour

light entertainment programme in the afternoon.

''My salary is paid by the trust and the youngsters are under the

training scheme,'' said Mr Barbour. ''All our equipment and raw material

has been bought either from fund-raising ventures or been donated by the

community. Our consumers pay for the connection charge, which is #145

and the quarterly rental of #118, but we try to help them out as much as

we can.

''Although it is personalised, it is an expensive type of radio

communication when you consider they can go out and buy a transistor for

#15 and get all the stations they want.''

All that could change if the bid for a franchise is successful and

already in train is a move to new premises in the centre of Keith, which

could be completed within the next six months.

''We will have to go commercial to survive financially and the whole

situation will have to be revamped,'' said Mr Barbour. ''We may have to

form a public limited company or a company limited by guarantee. This

will all have to be sorted out and agreed on nearer the time of getting

a licence from the new Radio Authority.

''Whether we work as closely with the Balloch trust is still open to

negotiation and discussion. But we would hope to maintain links with the

Employment Training scheme because it is invaluable to train up young

people in this industry.''

The idea would be to cover a 10-mile area round Keith and some kind of

link-up with Moray Forth Radio is also on the cards.

Mr Barbour does not believe that the community spirit, which has

helped to keep the station going, will disappear if it goes commercial

and says that once they get on the air the people of Keith and the

surrounding area will become even more involved.

If the worst should come to the worst and the licence application

fails, the station can still carry on and even expand its landline


''We have had inquiries from Huntly, Dufftown, Aberlour, Tomintoul and

Rothes about how they can get our broadcasts,'' said Mr Barbour. ''The

answer is they can if they come up with the connection charge and the

ongoing rental. The farther out we go from Keith the more expensive it


It is expected to be the summer of 1991 before the all-clear is given

for the new stations to start broadcasting. Keith's hard-won experience

and the patience and perseverance they have shown should ensure they are

one of them.