Alnwick's Lionheart Radio issues plea for new presenters in wake of broadcast licence breach

Alnwick’s Lionheart Radio has breached a condition of its broadcasting licence.

By Amanda Bourn
Monday, 18th July 2022, 9:16 am

Following an investigation by Ofcom, it has ruled that the station has not complied with a ‘Key Commitment' to broadcast a minimum of 70 hours of original output per week.

The probe was triggered after the regulator received a complaint from an unnamed source.

Ofcom therefore requested recordings of Lionheart broadcasts for the week beginning February 21, and found it only produced 49 hours.

One of Lionheart’s presenters, Thomas, records his 4pm Thursday show during the pandemic.

However, the station was the victim of extenuating circumstances.

Its premises and equipment was damaged by Storm Arwen the previous November, and storms which battered the county early in 2022 affected staffing because the presenters – all volunteers – often could not broadcast because they were clearing up or repairing damage caused to their homes and businesses.

Ongoing Covid restrictions also limited the number of trainees which could be recruited and trained up.

Ofcom had the power to fine Lionheart, and/or revoke its broadcasting licence but chose to do neither. Instead, it plans to monitor its output and has told the station it needs to get back to producing 70 hours a week as soon as possible.

Lionheart Radio’s chairman, Garth Jeffery, said: “Lionheart Radio is a great community radio station, with amazing presenters delivering superb programmes to delighted listeners.

“Our presenters, listeners and supporters know this – it is not in doubt. Lionheart Radio supported the community throughout the pandemic, with upbeat, cheerful programming providing a vital oasis in people's lives.

"But, as the community radio regulator, Ofcom has a duty to make sure that community radio stations meet their commitments.

"That is all that is happening here – it is the quantity of original output that is being scrutinised, not the quality.”

Lionheart proved to be a vital community resource during the pandemic.

Unable to work from the studio, presenters turned to alternative means to keep the station on the air. Shows were pre-recorded using a variety of technology, and helped to keep people’s spirits up during what was a very dark time for many.

The station’s mitigating circumstances were taken into account by Ofgem, but it still ruled it had breached a licence condition. It stated: “Lionheart said that it has been interrupted by premises damage, damaged equipment, and presenters in difficulties during nearly three months of successive powerful storms.

"The licensee also referred to the cancellation of public transportation used by presenters and government advice not to travel during the week under assessment.

"We additionally considered the ongoing effect the pandemic has on the licensee.”

Station organiser Anne Howie, who joined Lionheart just a few months after it launched in July 2007, said it had 25 presenters but needed around six or seven more.

In a direct appeal to the people of Alnwick, she said: “Right now, to help Lionheart Radio with its own recovery from the drop in presenter numbers caused by the pandemic, we need some help from you.

“If you would like to become a presenter – we will provide full training and support – then please do get in touch.

"The first step is often the hardest, but the easiest way to get in touch is by email via the Contact Us page on our website, www.lionheartradio.com.”