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Total Star in breach for news

The Total Star radio stations in Swindon, Bath and Bridgwater have been found to be in breach of their licences after Ofcom conducted monitoring.

The regulator found the format requirement to broadcast hourly local news wasn't being delivered – and bulletins weren't of the expected standard.

The monitoring took place in July and Total Star say the problems have now been rectified, following discussions with Ofcom.

The Swindon and Bath licences are permitted to share all programming and information content, although the Bridgwater service's format requires it to have local programming 6-10am and 4-7pm on weekdays.

Ofcom's monitoring report – based on a day listening to the Bridgwater service and two days to the Bath/Swindon service – concluded that the three licensed services had "failed to fulfil their commitment to broadcast local news hourly during weekday daytime." In addition, where local news was run, the report found that the bulletin content on all three stations "fell far short of the basic quality, quantity, production and news commitment levels which listeners in each of the three areas are entitled to expect." On the music and other programming content, Ofcom said the stations were fulfilling their licences format requirements without any problems.

The Ofcom report concluded: "All three stations made an obvious effort to put material with some sort of local relevance into each local bulletin broadcast, although all three stations fell short of the number of bulletins required by the Format. However, there appeared to be no attempt to add to or update those chosen items in any bulletins. Therefore, some of the few stories that were broadcast ran through the entire day. The others ran throughout breakfast and daytime or through drivetime."

Ofcom’s localness guidelines state that local news stories should be up to date and regularly refreshed.

The report added: "Each of these three stations was licensed with local editorial content at the forefront of its raison d’être. The news output on the three days monitored amounted to little more than a token gesture towards such content."

Brett Orchard, Group Station Director for Total Star, told RadioToday.co.uk: "When Ofcom sampled our service following the launch of our stations we were not delivering on what was required. There are no excuses, we were not doing a good enough job and were trying to offer a service with inadequate resources. Following numerous consultations with Ofcom regards their findings we are pleased to say the problems were quickly addressed and our news service falls well within the Ofcom guidelines."

He added: "We have also added a sports correspondent to our Wiltshire and Bath service and have a new breakfast newsreader and journalist joining our Wiltshire and Bath team very soon which will ensure the news is as current and informative as possible. We would like to thank Ofcom for all of their support and feel confident our brand will continue to develop."

You can read the Ofcom ruling [link=http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/broadcast/radio-ops/793032/totalstar.pdf]here[/link] and the monitoring report in full [link=http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/broadcast/radio-ops/sampling/Total-Star.pdf]here[/link].

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