Q Radio (Coleraine) has been found in breach of format regarding its requirement of local news and information.
Ofcom received a complaint that all programming from the Coleraine area of the network was now being broadcast from Belfast, and that the station was no longer a source of local news and information for the Coleraine area.
Although the station is permitted to broadcast the Coleraine service from Belfast and to share local programming hours with the other Q Radio stations in Northern Ireland, the Character of Service requires a strong commitment to local news and information.
When 3 days output from July and August were monitored, Ofcom noted there were 57 locally produced news bulletins, but only 31 of them contained any stories directly relevant to the Coleraine area. Also, other than travel news, there was no other local material.
The station owners NMG told Ofcom that, because of the traditional ‘Twelfth of July fortnight’ holidays in Northern Ireland, the Coleraine, Ballymena and Cookstown licences remained in full network mode, with no local inserts provided, until Monday 7 August, when local programming material was re-introduced.
With regards to the provision of local news on the Coleraine service, NMG said that there had been some temporary staffing difficulties so were unable to provide this service during Ofcom’s monitoring period. This meant that exactly the same local news bulletin was broadcast on both the Belfast and Coleraine transmitters during this period. They said bespoke local bulletins for each licence area have been reintroduced following the resolution of its staffing issues.
Ofcom said that while they acknowledge the temporary set of circumstances that led to a reduction in local output during this period, they felt that NMG was in breach of local news obligations contained in the format, and also did not comply with the ‘Character of Service’ included in the Coleraine licence. Their decision was, there had been breaches of Licence Conditions 2(1) and 2(4) in Part 2 of the Schedule.