Q Radio breached Coleraine licence, says Ofcom

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Q Radio (Coleraine) has been found to have been in breach of the service provided under its local news and information requirements.

The commercial station is licensed to provide a service for the Coleraine area of Northern Ireland.

Under its licence, held by Northern Media Group Limited, the service is to be “a locally-oriented broad music station for the Coleraine area, with a strong commitment to local news and information”.

Ofcom received a complaint that all programming on the Coleraine licence was being broadcast from Belfast, and the station was no longer a source of local news and information for the Coleraine area.

Although the station is entitled to broadcast the north coast service from Belfast, and to share local programming hours with the other Q Radio stations in Northern Ireland, the service must still include a certain number of local news bulletins each day, and must still have a strong commitment to local news and information.

When recordings of three days of Q Radio’s output this summer were monitored, Ofcom noted of the 57 locally-produced news bulletins aired during the period, only 31 of these contained any news stories directly relevant to the Coleraine licence area.

“Aside from some travel news, we did not hear any other local material that was specific to the Coleraine area,” Ofcom stated.

In response to the regulatory body, NMG said because of the traditional ‘Twelfth of July fortnight’ holidays, 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 Coleraine service, NMG said it usually offered bespoke local news bulletins for each of its seven licence areas, but because of some temporary staffing difficulties it was unable to provide this 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. NMG says it has now reintroduced bespoke local bulletins for each licence area, following resolution of its staffing issues.

While acknowledging the temporary set of circumstances that led to a reduction in the provision of local output during the monitoring period, Ofcom found NMG was in breach of the specific local news obligations contained in its format, and also did not comply with the ‘Character of Service’ included in the Coleraine licence.

It’s decision was there had been Breaches of Licence Conditions 2(1) and 2(4) in Part 2 of the Schedule.