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Blyth Valley breach for speech

Suffolk community station Blyth Valley Radio has had a breach recorded against its licence by Ofcom for not meeting the required proportion of speech to music in its output.

The station admitted to the regulator that speech content fell as low as 15 percent one week, but the licensee's 'key commitments' require typically 30 percent of output to be speech.

In its original application for a community radio licence, Blyth Valley promised that live output would typically consist of 70 percent music and 30 percent speech (excluding adverts, promos and sponsor credits).

Ofcom received a complaint in the summer about the proportion of speech programming broadcast on the station and wrote to the licensee in August to ask whether it was complying with its key commitment.

In its response the station provided an analysis of its weekly broadcasting for a week in August. In this analysis the station estimated that its overall speech output was 15.8 percent with music at 84.2 percent.

Station bosses said that they continuously monitor and updates their schedule to accommodate different presenters and that this can cause 'peaks and troughs' in the station's speech output percentage. As a result, the licensee said that at times it over-delivers on its speech remit and at other times it under-delivers on this requirement. The licensee felt that typically, its speech output "is around 30 percent on average over a period of time".

During the week in question, Blyth Valley Radio said new presenters being on air meant the speech output was lower than it should have been. It said they were training more presenters to be confident in delivering speech programmes.

As a result, Ofcom has agreed with the station to change the speech to music ratio of the terms of the licence to 25:75.

However, they said that by not providing the required 30 percent during August 2010, the licensee was not providing the service as described in its key commitments, and was therefore in breach of the licence condition. Ofcom has therefore formally recorded this breach by the licensee.

Ofcom said: "Key commitments are designed to ensure that each community radio station continues to provide the service for which it has been licensed. As such, key commitments are requirements which must be delivered from launch, not targets to meet at a future date."

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