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NEWS: OFCOM WARNS BRISTOL RADIO STATION 'STAR FM' WITH 'YELLOW CARD' FOR BREACH OF BLACK MUSIC OBLIGATION

IN LICENSED FORMAT by GRANT GODDARD

www.grantgoddard.co.uk August 2006

Following Ofcom’s decision to issue Bristol station 'Star FM' with a 'yellow card' for breach of its Format, the station’s owner UKRD Limited took the unusual step of publicly warning other radio stations that they must stick to “difficult Formats” policed by the regulator. As part of its ongoing content sampling initiative, Ofcom monitored four days of Star’s output in July and found that the requirement within its Format to broadcast “a black music programme of up to five hours duration” and a “speech-orientated three-hour sequence for the multicultural community” was unfulfilled. Ofcom said that its sampling “revealed a lack of speech during the speech-orientated three-hour sequence for the multicultural community and the absence of a definitive black music programme”. It also noted that the station’s 'Club Classics' show was a “dubious interpretation of the Format requirements” and that the overall music policy could “only be described as ‘soulful’ in the broadest terms”. UKRD group programme director Phil Angell admitted that Star’s format had “strayed over the line” but said that he had subsequently introduced a Sunday evening show entitled 'Soul & Motown Sunday' within the schedule. He added that Star’s Format presented UKRD with a commercial challenge, as Bristol’s ethnic community was only 5% of the population, and he asked Ofcom to provide more flexibility in such circumstances. Star is the only local commercial radio station in Bristol presently required to serve the city’s ethnic community. Former black music pirate 'For The People' had been licensed to serve the Afro-Caribbean community in 1990, but the Radio Authority relinquished the licensee’s responsibility to the ethnic community in 1991 when the station was sold to Chiltern Radio plc and became 'Galaxy FM'. Similar situations exist in other markets where the regulator has approved the dilution of stations that had originally been licensed to serve ethnic communities. 'Choice FM' won a Birmingham licence in 1995 for its black music format but was sold in 1998 to Chrysalis plc to become another 'Galaxy' station. The Radio Authority instigated a public interest test, but approved the takeover, leaving Galaxy’s Birmingham outlet with a Format that still describes it as “a rhythmic-based music and information station primarily for listeners of African or Afro-Caribbean origin”. There is no evidence that Galaxy has been required to demonstrate to Ofcom the proportion of its audience that is AfroCaribbean or to explain the appeal of its dance music format to this target demographic.

[First published in 'The Radio Magazine' as 'Star FM Warns Of "Difficult Formats"', #750, 23 August 2006]

News: Ofcom Warns Bristol Radio Station 'Star FM' With 'Yellow Card' For Breach Of Black Music Obligation In Licensed Format page 2 ©2006 Grant Goddard

Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at http://www.grantgoddard.co.uk

News: Ofcom Warns Bristol Radio Station 'Star FM' With 'Yellow Card' For Breach Of Black Music Obligation In Licensed Format page 3 ©2006 Grant Goddard