Watchdog hits out at Q Radio's lack of local output
A Northern Ireland commercial radio station breached its format by failing to include any local stories, a watchdog has found.
Q Radio had broadcast "very little local material" and "failed frequently" to carry content drawn from the Coleraine region in its news bulletins, communications regulator Ofcom said.
Following a complaint, Ofcom examined the content from three days in July and August and found that out of the 57 locally-produced news bulletins, only 31 contained any news stories that were directly relevant to the Coleraine licence area.
The station's owners NMG said that because of the Twelfth holiday, the Coleraine, Ballymena and Cookstown licences remained in full network mode, with no local inserts provided, until Monday, August 7, when local programming material was re-introduced. Aside from some travel news, there was no local material that was specific to the area.
The format of the Coleraine licence requires the service to be "a locally-oriented broad music station for the Coleraine area, with a strong commitment to local news and information". It further states that the station must produce locally seven hours of output per day on weekdays and four on weekend days. However, the service provided under the Coleraine licence can be shared with those provided under six other licences, including Belfast.
Ofcom said that despite the changes, the service provided under the Coleraine licence must still include a certain number of local news bulletins each day.
NMG said that it usually provided "bespoke local news bulletins" for each of its seven licence areas, but because of some temporary staffing difficulties it was unable to provide this service during the monitoring period.
It said: "This meant that exactly the same local news bulletin was broadcast on both the Belfast and Coleraine transmitters during this period.
"NMG said that, during the period in question, it had found itself at the centre of a 'perfect storm', with staff departures to the BBC, the annual traditional holidays in Northern Ireland and significant bereavements affecting two members of Q Radio's management team."
It has reviewed its output, and changes have been implemented.