Belfast Telegraph

Student station Blast 106 'has breached licensing conditions'

By margaret canning

A community radio station in Belfast aimed at students has been blasted by the regulator for breaching licence commitments.

Blast 106, which started broadcasting in 2009, is licensed to serve students at Queen's, University of Ulster and Belfast Met as well as other young people in greater Belfast.

Since autumn 2012, it also required to devote 80% of its time to music – playing a variety of genres catering to its audience and volunteers – and the remainder to speech.

Ofcom's broadcast bulletin said it had received inquiries about the amount of speech and type of music being played.

After monitoring the station for five days in total in November last year and at the end of January this year, Ofcom found just 7.6% of its output took the form of speech from 6am to 7pm.

The station said the January monitoring took place at the start of the new term, and that it "takes a while for the schedule to settle down again".

Blast also breached its commitment to cover student issues, Ofcom said, with "no local student news, coverage of student sports events, documentaries, or coverage of student politics" during the five days.

Ofcom's bulletin also said that that station played mostly chart music, in breach of a requirement to play a variety of music.

The bulletin said it had noted that the station was "actively seeking" to broadcast more speech during the day. It stated: "Ofcom was concerned that it was only programmes broadcast in the evenings that featured a range of music genres.

"The 'key commitments' require that music output is very varied, but in 'daytime' we did not consider this to be the case."

And the music had to be "varied" in the context of what appealed to the target of students and young people.

"Therefore, we would not expect Blast 106 to provide "variety" in the sense of also providing older-leaning genres such as easy listening, classical, gold pop or classic rock, but we would expect to hear a variety of genres that have youth-appeal such as those outlined in Blast's licence application (eg indie rock, electronica, R&B, drum n' bass)," the bulletin said.

No-one from the station was available for comment.

Belfast Telegraph