6 Towns Radio, the community radio station based in Burslem, has reportedly been banned from covering Port Vale matches by Vale chairman Norman Smurthwaite.
The station was told at the start of the 2014-15 season it can no longer attend any Port Vale press conferences or report at home games.
The reason given in correspondence between the station and Norman Smurtwaite was “Several people including some of the key people in the Tony Naylor Charity day advised me of your conduct around that event and as such my action is to keep yourself away from the Club. I will leave you to involve the Press and the various parties will then respond.”
The station says the ban arises from an incorrect allegation of the early release of footage of the game by a film production company on another radio station’s YouTube channel.
The sponsor of the game arranged coverage with another radio station who in turn asked a third party film production team to do the coverage in their name.
The sponsor called Rob Ledgar, one of 6 Towns Radio’s directors on the day the film was made public.
Rob Ledgar has released this statement, six months after the incident
“I received a call on the day of the release of the footage asking why I had released it, which I found to be a somewhat bizarre accusation, especially considering the footage was hosted on another station’s YouTube channel!
I explained that I had merely retweeted the link put out by the films producers, in an effort to further the awareness of the game and it’s worthy cause, continuing the support and the promotion that I and 6 Towns Radio had given the game.
During the conversation I was accused of releasing the footage and threatened with legal action from the sponsor which I laughed off. The sponsor also said something untrue and libellous about my involvement with the release of the footage to which I said that if that was said in public I would take legal action over. This seemed to upset the sponsor who became threatening and aggressive on the phone. I ended the call when the sponsor acted in this manner.
6 Towns Radio had always been involved in promoting the charity match in the run up to it and had even arranged for a number of players to play in the game. I was personally contacting players in the week leading up to the game to try and get them involved so really don’t understand these false accusations.
Since then I have contacted Norman Smurthwaite after discovering that he had decided to ban 6 Towns Radio from Port Vale coverage, it seems he is being led by an incorrect version of the events from the sponsor.”
I have also investigated what went on and am in full possession of the facts and various communications between the film production team and the other radio station. I also know that the film company have written to Norman and explained that neither I or 6 Towns Radio had any influence on their decision to release their film.
I have explained all of this to Norman in writing and he chose not to respond. In the email to Norman I asked to meet him so that he could make a judgement based on the facts which I outlined.”
We have tried a number of avenues to resolve the situation including negotiation between the sponsor and myself by fellow 6 Towns Radio director Terry Bossons, who as a lifelong Vale supporter is the innocent victim in all of this. Terry helped the sponsor to get the game up and running, providing a number of contacts to the organisers for players to appear in the game. It is Terry who carried out the lions share of Port Vale coverage for 6 Towns Radio and even had a column in the match day programme which he wrote on a voluntarily basis. Even though the recent troubled times at Vale, Terry reported the club in a positive light and won’t hear a bad word said about them.
The sponsor asked for a written apology from myself about how he had been spoken to on the phone and being threatened with legal action. I found this bizarre as I was merely defending my integrity, but did offer an apology in a bid to resolve the matter. The sponsor then asked for his to be hand written and sent to them, which I did. Since then nothing has happened.
As directors of 6 Towns Radio we decided to keep this a private matter as we are not believers of “washing dirty linen” in public. We chose to not pursue it until after our annual awards night at which we always honour a Port Vale player of the calendar year. We always offer an invitation the the event to the winner and we have seen various players and members of the Vale management team in attendance. The invite has also been extended to Norman in the past too.
This year Chris Neal won the award and was invited through Norman Smurthwaite, we didn’t get a reply to the invite.
We feel as directors of 6 Towns Radio that we have given many opportunities for this matter to be resolved and personally I feel that our integrity and good name is been slighted by the denial of access to cover Port Vale. We try to maintain a healthy balance of coverage of both major teams in the area but are being denied by a petty personal dispute that we have done all we can to resolve including offering a written apology for any misunderstanding.
We have given the matter six months privacy and been very patient in trying to resolve the matter but now have decided to share the facts with the public.
As an organisation we are run on a full volunteer basis, support work experience, the unemployed and students giving them media skills and opportunities that they might not get elsewhere. In the past we were asked to support Norman’s son on a work experience which we were prepared to do.”