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UK to Lancashire community radio station: stay with LGBT format

Chorley.fmAn interesting response from United Kingdom broadcast regulator to Chorley.fm of Lancashire’s petition to modify its LGBT oriented format. Ofcom has turned the request down. Chorley had asked that it be allowed to change its “communities to be served” description from “The young people (15-25 years of age) and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of Chorley” to “The population that live, work and study in Chorley.”

To which Ofcom’s Broadcast Licensing Committee responds: “. . . the service proposes to no longer offer a focus on the youth and LGBT communities, and proposes to remove practically all references to young people and the LGBT community from its Key Commitments. As a result, the Committee considered that young people and the LGBT community may be less likely to engage with the station and wish to access it.”

Thus, “on balance,” Ofcom “was was not satisfied in relation to this criterion.”

In the UK, community radio stations can’t just change formats; they have to apply to the government and hold a public “consultation” on any proposed alteration of the operation’s “Key Commitments.” In its application, Chorley protested that it never could successfully provide programming “exclusively” for young and LGBT listeners. In addition, the key commitments “have also somewhat side-lined the station as successive town councils have taken the view the station is a niche organisation rather than for the whole community and this has been a constant obstacle to effective co-operation,” the station complained.

Over the course of the consultation, many commenters supported Chorley’s request. But Ofcom’s Broadcast Committee noted a lack of support for adjusting the format “from persons comprising the current target community” of LBGT and youth. The Committee acknowledged Chorley’s assertion that “said changes were based on feedback it sought from the target community,” but: “the consultation responses did not conclusively support this position.”

Chorley has published a response to Ofcom’s ruling: “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.”


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