Community radio station Gravity FM in Grantham, Lincolnshire, has been found in breach of its licence for not repaying unused grant money as per Ofcom terms.
The station was awarded £12,965 from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s Community Radio Fund in June 2016.
The money should have been spent between 1 August 2016 to 30 September 2017, otherwise it was due to be returned as per the conditions of the grant. Gravity FM only spent £10,249 so was required to return the remaining £2,716.
Ofcom made several phone calls to the station with a view to resolving the matter and getting the money back.
Gravity FM did not respond to Ofcom’s request for comments so the regulator subsequently telephoned the Company Secretary about the ongoing investigation and the Licensee’s failure to both respond to the Direction or return the sum of the £2,716.
Following this conversation, Ofcom sent an email outlining again the situation and giving Gravity FM a further opportunity to respond. The Company Secretary replied by email, putting forward a proposal for the repayment of the unspent grant money. His email stated that “As you are aware, we had been struggling to stabilise the company, and maintain the radio service, whilst dealing with the legacy ‘issues’. The board now feels that we are in a position to push the station forward, and have secured deals to enable many of the extra demands of management to be met, with minimal cost to the company”.
The money paid to community radio licensees from the Fund is public money made available by DCMS for community radio services and it must be accounted for appropriately. On this basis, Ofcom issued a Direction to Gravity FM under condition 15(1) in Part 2 of the Schedule to its community radio licence, requiring the repayment of £2,716. The Licensee failed to comply with the terms of the Direction in that it failed to pay the outstanding sum of £2,716 in full, or to contact Ofcom to discuss a possible repayment plan, by the date set out in the Direction.
While the Licensee has now put forward a schedule to repay the sum of £2,716, this was some months after the deadline stipulated in the Direction. It is therefore Ofcom’s Decision that Gravity FM is in breach of Licence Condition 15(1) of Part 2 of the Schedule to its licence.