Six community stations found ‘in breach’
Six community radio stations have had breaches recorded against their licences – for going off air, failing to supply recordings of output or not sending an annual report to Ofcom.
Boundary Sound in Newark has received two notices of being ‘In Breach’ – one for closing down in June and indicating that it may return to the air but giving no fixed date, and the other for failing to provide an annual report.
In all, three stations were found in breach of the terms of their community radio licence for not sending in an annual report, despite repeated requests from Ofcom. Boundary Sound (Newark), TMCR (Thorne and Moorends in South Yorkshire) and Voice of Africa Radio (East London) have all been put on notice that their present contravention of their licences is being considered for the imposition of a statutory sanction by Ofcom. Seven further stations failed to supply their annual reports on time, but have now submitted them to Ofcom so the regulator considers those cases to be resolved.
Boundary Sound also receives a breach after going off the air on 23 June after two and a half years. The station wrote to Ofcom in early July to confirm that they were no longer providing their radio service, adding that the bailiffs had gone in to remove goods and equipment from the station so they weren’t able to continue broadcasts. The licensee said it was hoping to get an investment of money into Boundary Sound CIC or ‘try and persuade Ofcom to enable the transfer of the licence to a new company’, but gave Ofcom no indication of the timescales for that happening. The regulator also concluded that given the removal of equipment by bailiffs it was unlikely that off-air commitments such as training were still being provided. A formal breach of the station’s licence was therefore recorded for failing to meet the licence conditions.
Radio Sandwell in West Bromwich also finds itself in breach of its community radio licence, after admitting to transmitting pre-recorded programmes for a total of 7 weeks following a studio move and technical problems. Ofcom engineers had noticed that a laptop at the transmitter site was providing on-air programmes when the station’s licence requires at least 10-hours of live programmes per day. This happened at the end of March and it later transpired that the station had been broadcasting pre-recorded output between mid-February and mid-April. Ofcom says it was misled in initial correspondence with the station about the length of time that live programming hadn’t been being broadcast. The regulator has formally notified the licensee that they are considering the imposition of a statutory sanction because of the breach’s seriousness. In its summary of the breach, Ofcom also reminds community stations that it wrote to them in March this year to make it clear that licensees should contact them if they are experiencing or expect disruption to their broadcast service because of technical issues, building works or studio moves.
Angel Radio on the Isle of Wight has received a breach for a similar reason – after going off air but not notifying Ofcom. The regulator was alerted to an article in the local press where the station was appealing for funds to help replace the studio to transmitter link which had broken down. The station had said in the article that it would take three weeks for live programmes to resume and pre-recorded programmes would be broadcast in the meantime. When contacted by Ofcom, the station said that they had been off air completely between 17th and 20th July following a lightning strike and had subsequently connected a laptop at the transmitter to resume output, albeit not live, for a further six days. Ofcom have recorded a breach against the licence, adding: “Although we sympathise with the station that it suffered a technical failure and understand that this was outside the Licensee’s control, it remains the case that the station did not get in touch with Ofcom directly to inform us of what was happening.”
And the group behind Leeds Community Radio may have ruined their chances of getting a full time community radio licence, after failing to provide recordings of output to Ofcom from their RSL in April and May. Following a complaint, the regulator asked for a recording of output broadcast on 3rd May. At the third time of asking, the station supplied a recording but it didn’t contain the programme referred to by the complainant. Despite a further request, the audio recording in question wasn’t supplied. In response the licensee said that station’s manager had been away, hence the delay in responding. Ofcom concluded that the station had failed in its duty to provide requested recordings and so found it to be in breach of its Restricted Service Licence. They added: “We intend to monitor closely the compliance with licence conditions of this Licensee going forward, should he or individuals formally associated with this RSL licence, apply for a licence to broadcast in the future.”
You can read the full rulings on each breach of licence in this week’s Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin.