22nd May 2015

Chorley FM Statement regarding Ofcom consultation outcome – 22nd May 2015

Chorley FM HQ

As many of our listeners, community and commercial partners will be aware, Chorley FM Limited – the controlling body of 102.8 Chorley FM submitted an application to media regulator Ofcom earlier in the year requesting a number of amendments to the stations ‘Key Commitments’ – an overarching agreement between the company and Ofcom that sets out the conditions of operating the local community radio license for the district of Chorley and the surrounding communities.

On the 20th May 2015, Ofcom advised the company of the outcome of that request and have since published its response in full. The Broadcasting Licensing Committee (BLC) whilst accepting in principle the intentions of the request decided upon a judgement to refuse the changes requested. The BLC are unable to accept a partial amendment to the existing license conditions when a full request has been made and therefore had to make a judgement on the amendments in full.

We fully accept this decision on the basis of the reasoning set out in Ofcom’s published response.

The request was, and still remains an attempt to review and amend this important document, born out of the ‘technically in breach’ notice published by Ofcom in 2014 for failing to meet the very specific targeted terms of the existing license conditions.

At that time the company accepted in full the findings of Ofcom during an investigation period that resulted in response to a listener complaint to the regulator about the stations perceived failings to meet the commitments detailed in the ‘Key Commitment’ documentation as issued by Ofcom in 2007, upon the award of a community radio license to Chorley FM Ltd.

During that investigation period, the company provided representation to Ofcom that in summary outlined the success of the station in the local community. That success had been built upon the seven years (at that time) of experience and natural evolution of the service in response to audience feedback, alongside a necessity to create a sustainable product commercially without which the station would not be able to financially support its operations.

We recognise that in response to the publication of Ofcom’s BLC judgement that much focus may be given to the reference to the removal of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT), and the removal of young people aged 16-25 years both of which were defined as a target audience, from our ‘Key Commitments’ in the amendment submitted to Ofcom. We would like to offer clarification and our commitment on this matter.

It was never the intention of the company to discontinue our longstanding support and on air commitments to all underserved members of the local community. We believe that our current service provides a suitable mix of specifically targeted programming mixed with more generic, all-encompassing on air content. Our request for a change of ‘Key Commitments’ was a reflection of our current position (for which a ‘Breach notice’ has been published) and not a platform for whole service change. Our full commitment to this remains at the very heart of our service provision, but should be subject to natural progression in response to the needs of the local community. It is this capability that remains restricted under the current ‘Key Commitment’ terms and for which we sought a clearer agreement.

The board of directors, volunteers and supporters of this request are understandably disappointed in Ofcom’s judgement. However, we remain committed to the provision of a community radio service that meets the expectations of the local community as well as continued dialogue and collaborative working with the regulator to achieve a more suitable and workable set of license conditions, so as to ensure the future of an important community resource.

We would like to thank each and every member of the local community, supporting community groups and our commercial partners for the very public, often heart-warming acknowledgement of their support both for this process, and the general work of the station. We are privileged to have a significant number of volunteers who show endless drive, commitment and passion to the service we provide – and without whom, the station would not achieve all that it does in the local community.

At the time of our submission to Ofcom, no other community radio licensees had previously made a full ‘Key Commitment’ change request, and as such the full process for review and adjudication had not been tested.

It was therefore difficult to submit an application for change based on any working understanding of the principles such an application would be judged against. We are hopeful that following this period of dialogue and using the outcome from Ofcom’s process that a further period of discussion and review will take place that may result in the re-submission of an amended change request better aligned to the expectations of the regulator.

Chorley FM Ltd will make further comment on this at that time should it be appropriate to do so.