Hot Radio in breach for not providing local news and specialist music

Hot Radio in Poole has been found in breach of its licence for not broadcasting local news or enough specialist music as per its Key Commitments.

Following a complaint, Ofcom listened to the station and found it was meeting its original output requirement, its social gain objectives and was accountable to its target community.

However, the regulator said two parts of its community radio Key Commitments were not being met.

Ofcom noticed no news bulletins were broadcast, and said that directing listeners to its website to access local news stories from the Bournemouth Echo does not meet the station’s Key Commitment to broadcast “news bulletins”.

The speech content present during the week monitored mainly consisted of traffic updates, job vacancy advertisements, ‘what’s-on’ information, ‘feel-good’ news, weather forecasts and interviews with musicians.

In terms of music, Hot Radio is required to provide “specialist music programmes during evenings and weekends” but during the week monitored, Ofcom found that the only specialist music broadcast on a weekday evening for two hours on a Monday.

Hot Radio said it had a mixture of presenter illnesses and student unavailability during the week in question.

Ofcom pointed out that Hot Radio’s character of service states that it “is for the people of Poole. It promotes a better understanding of Poole across the community and strengthens links between all groups of local people”.

Ofcom’s assessment of the recordings provided by the Licensee found that there was insufficient content to distinguish the service from a service targeting the wider Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (“BCP”) area. Ofcom accepts that content referring to the wider local area is of interest to residents of Poole. However, the licensed coverage area is that of Poole.

Further, the character of service specifies that the content should “promote a better understanding of Poole across the community” and Ofcom is concerned that the content broadcast in the week monitored did not achieve this because there was insufficient content specifically about Poole.

In responce, Hot Radio CEO Kevin Scott has issued this statement to RadioToday:

“Whilst we appreciate our licence obligations and the policing of them by Ofcom. It can be frustrating as we, like all 3rd sector licensees rely on our unpaid volunteers.

During the week monitored by Ofcom the Journalism students from Bournemouth University (actually based in Poole) had only just returned from the Easter Break and could not volunteer, also we had a number of sicknesses and volunteers on holiday resulting in a week where our normal local news content and specialist programming was not at normal levels.

Having said all of that we still achieved 64 hrs of original programming when our licence states a minimum of 30 so more than double the minimum requirement.

It is also highly frustrating that in 2019 The Government approved the combining of our three towns (Bournemouth, Poole & Christchurch) which is not recognised as our new social gain area by Ofcom and we are still governed by key commitments set in 2008 although we did have a change request in with ofcom at the time of this complaint which wasn’t responded to until after the investigation was started at which point it was denied.

We also would like to state that we have not asked to be the go-to local station for all 3 towns .This is down to the national chains moving out of area and reducing their local footprint, This has left the local community angry due to them losing 90% of local programming as they are now networking most content. So we have filled this gap naturally as we will not discriminate against the local population just because they live in Bournemouth or Christchurch.

We would also like to add we do all we can for our community with the resources we have going above and beyond in our support levels and every one of our over 120 volunteers work for the good of the local community.

We will be giving this feedback when we have our forthcoming meeting with MPs, Ministers and the DCMS as we believe restrictions and funding opportunities need to change in the future to keep our sector going before it disappears due to not being sustainable in its current model.

We reiterate, we run everything we do on a not-for-profit basis and social gain basis and are an extremely important asset to the local community of Poole but BCP as well. We have also improved our offering of specialist programming and local news bulletins since this complaint in April.”

Hot Radio started life as The Bay and in 2008 and had a period of being ‘owned’ by AFC Bournemouth and rebranding as Hot Radio in February 2012.