Call for local regulator after radio station feels the wrath of Ofcom

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A ST BOSWELLS community radio station has called for a Borders radio and TV regulator to be set up after it was warned by Ofcom over its future conduct.

The UK media regulator decided Brick FM had committed a “serious and significant” breach of its broadcast licence after failings to provide adequate recordings following a complaint.

Singer and video maker Jesse Rae of Brick FM said: “It feels like Ofcom are hitting us over the head with a pylon because we are a wee rural station.

“We need a Borders and Scottish regulator to replace Ofcom.

“They would be reasonable, helpful and supportive, and would allow every village and school in the Borders to have their own station.”

Ofcom says it asked Brick FM in April last year to provide recordings of four days’ output to address a complaint that the station was not meeting its key commitments regarding live broadcasting. The regulator says it received “limited analysis” which it was unable to properly assess.

In August 2010, Ofcom wrote again to Brick FM to ask for further recordings, but was told the station’s studio had been hit by lightning that had damaged recording equipment.

The deadline was extended to November and eight discs containing recordings arrived at Ofcom’s London headquarters. But no information was provided to show the broadcaster had complied with the specific key commitment, with no dates or times of programmes included.

Ofcom returned the discs and asked that the recordings be re-submitted with the information required.

Despite claims from Brick FM that these were sent again on December 13, Ofcom maintains it never received them.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “By failing to provide the recordings of output and the other information we have requested, we have not been able to assess whether the licensee is delivering against its key commitments, which form part of its licence.

“Therefore we have not been able to reach a decision on the licensee’s compliance in this regard.

“The failure by Brick FM Ltd to supply the recording in this instance is a serious and significant breach of Condition 8 (2) of its licence to broadcast and should there be any similar contraventions, we will consider further regulatory action.”

But Mr Rae, from Clintmains, said: “We sent discs down but because everything was not labelled, Ofcom did not bother to listen to them and sent them back.

“When I sent the discs a second time it was during the really bad weather and they got lost in the mail.”

Regarding the complaint of not fulfiling enough live broadcasting hours, Mr Rae told us: “There are a couple of presenters who have passed away and some other presenters have physical disabilities which means they cannot always get into the studio.

“When this happens, I have three or four programmes which I put on. It is still live because I am in the studio and can take phone calls.”

Mr Rae, who shot to fame with his award-winning video for hit single Over the Sea in 1985, believes Brick FM is a valuable Borders station which gives budding DJs a chance to hone their skills.

“What other station would give someone on their first day of work experience, David Rae from Galashiels Academy, an exclusive interview with Adam Ant?” he said.

“That is the value of the community radio station. That would never happen on commercial radio.”