More community stations in trouble with Ofcom
Community stations Saint FM, Beyond Radio and TCR FM have been found in breach by Ofcom following concerns they weren’t complying with the requirements of their licences.
Saint FM, which covers Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, was asked to provide recordings of output to the regulator after a complaint that it was broadcasting more than its 60 hours a week of allowed syndicated programmes supplied by Radio Caroline. The recordings supplied to Ofcom didn’t match the documented schedule, with Ofcom saying in one instance that material purported to be broadcast in May 2017 actually contained programmes that appeared to have originally been broadcast in January 2017.
Ofcom said: “Despite referring to this discrepancy in our correspondence with the Licensee, we did not receive a definitive response as to whether this content was in fact broadcast on 6 May 2017 or whether it had been included erroneously in the recordings provided to Ofcom. Given that the recordings also contained content from times of day that were different to the times Ofcom had requested recordings for, Ofcom was concerned that the recordings were not those it had requested. This prevented Ofcom from determining whether the Licensee was complying with its licence obligation.”
Ofcom decided Saint FM’s licence holder, St Peters Studio and Community Radio Ltd, was in breach of Condition 9(1) of its licence.
The regulator has also investigated community station Beyond Radio, which covers Lancaster and Morecambe in Lancashire, after a complaint that it wasn’t delivering some of its Key Commitments.
After listening to recordings from March, the regulator was concerned that the station was failing to provide original output for a minimum of 16 hours per day, and that it wasn’t delivering on its promises for speech content. Recordings from a three day period showed there were two hours of original output on the Thursday, three on the Friday and six on the Saturday. Beyond Radio said it had struggled to get enough volunteers to present programmes but that since the complaint it had increased efforts to deliver more original programmes.
Ofcom has put the station on notice that it will monitor output in the near future, and consider further regulatory action if it still isn’t meeting its Key Commitments. The regulator has recorded breaches of Licence Conditions 2(1) and 2(4) in Part 2 of the Schedule to the licence for Beyond Radio, which is held by Proper Community Media (Lancaster) Limited.
Recordings of output from TCR FM in Tamworth were also listened to by Ofcom after a complaint that it wasn’t meeting its Key Commitments on local news and sports coverage.
TCR FM admitted it wasn’t meeting the requirements, saying the reason was due to volunteers not being able to do their regular programmes – including the dedicated sports show in the week when output for monitored. The station said it was introducing pre-recorded local news segments to be broadcast in automated hours, and trying to get people to fill shows when the main presenter is unavailable. Following Ofcom’s investigation into output in March, the station said it had put in place plans to broadcast local news and sports bulletins from early July and was encouraging presenters to include news and sports content in their shows.
Ofcom says TCR FM broadcast 31 hours of original output in the week monitored, rather than the required 44 hours. It acknowledged the station’s unforseen circumstances, but pointed out that the licensee has twice before been in breach for failing to comply with its Key Commitments – in October 2014 and February 2016. As well as finding the station again in breach of Licence Conditions 2(1) and 2(4) of its licence, regulator says it has put TCR FM on notice that it will monitor output and should there be further breaches it will consider further action, including the imposition of a statutory sanction.
You can read the full Ofcom rulings in the latest Broadcast Bulletin.