West London community radio station OnFM has been off-air since 7th September, placing it in “serious and ongoing” breach of its licensing conditions, Ofcom has said.
The station, which serves Hammersmith with a particular focus on the Irish population as well as other ethnic groups, stopped broadcasting after a bill from the landlord of the transmitter site went unpaid.
The first that Ofcom knew of any problem was when it was contacted by a station volunteer, five days after OnFM had stopped broadcasting. The station director was abroad at the time, but Ofcom received email confirmation from her that the station was not on-air.
Ofcom is critical of the management of the station, saying that the landlord’s actions in taking the station off air “may have been foreseeable and avoidable”. Ofcom said: “we also note that in the station director’s absence abroad there did not appear to be anyone at the station able to deputise and deal with such an emergency. As a result Ofcom was not informed of the situation for five days and no progress towards resolving the situation was made while the station director was away.” It adds that in its Responses, OnFM had not set out a clear plan or timetable to re-commence the service.
The regulator says that “Provision by a Licensee of its licensed service on the frequency assigned to it is the fundamental purpose for which a community radio licence is granted”. Ofcom is now therefore considering whether to impose a statutory sanction on the station for what it describes as “serious and on-going” licence contraventions.
In December 2011, another west London community station, Westside Radio, which serves the multicultural community living in Southall, was fined £500 after going off air for nearly one month. Following this, Ofcom said it would write to community radio stations, to remind them that “all licensees should contact us if any issues arise that may lead to the broadcast service being adversely affected.”