128/99 6 September 1999

RADIO AUTHORITY FINES OXYGEN FM AND SHORTENS ITS LICENCE

The Radio Authority has today (6 September) announced that it has fined Oxygen FM (Oxford) 20,000 and has shortened its eight year licence by two years for fabricating live on-air a day’s programming in an attempt to deceive its regulator. These are the most serious sanctions which the Authority has ever imposed.

At its meeting on 1 September, the Authority decided to impose these sanctions on Oxygen FM, which broadcasts to students and the younger Oxford community, for what was described by the Chairman of the Authority, Sir Peter Gibbings, as showing "shocking disrespect for its listeners".

Background

A complainant alleged that Oxygen had been breaching its Format which includes debate, discussion and science and arts programmes. In order to investigate this claim the Authority made a number of requests for tapes of the output during the period in question and in particular for 1 March. As tapes for this day were not available, on the 8 March the management of the station broadcast the day's output as if it were a week earlier; fabricating programming live on-air and referring to the date incorrectly as 1 March.

When the Authority requested the 8 March output it was sent the output of 15 March labelled as 8 March. The Authority subsequently collected tapes for an entire week only to find that none of 21 tapes contained broadcasts of the week in question. The Authority was therefore unable to check whether the programmes which Oxygen is required to put on-air were being broadcast.

Commenting on the station's actions, Sir Peter Gibbings, Chairman of the Authority said,

"Oxygen FM has shown shocking disrespect for its listeners as part of an attempt to deceive its regulator.

"As the first student-targeted station this is an unusual licence but all licensees must comply with the terms of their licence.

"The Authority still firmly believes there is a place for innovation and experiment within the Independent Radio system."

The Authority's decision to shorten the licence effectively means that it is likely to be re-advertised during 2001 with an opportunity for others to submit applications. The fast-track licensing procedure will not apply.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Oxygen FM began broadcasting in February 1997. The station has recently put a new management team in place (which is full-time). The station is staffed by volunteers, most of them students.

2. It is a requirement of the Broadcasting Act 1990 that stations keep tapes of output for forty-two days.

3. The Radio Authority can request a broadcast apology or correction, issue a formal warning, or impose a penalty which can include a fine or the suspension, shortening or revocation of a licence. Financial penalties are not kept by the Radio Authority but are passed to the Treasury's Consolidated Funds.

4. Section 110(5) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 allows for the Authority to revoke a notice shortening a licence if, on the application of the licensee, the Authority is satisfied that, since the date of the earlier notice, the licensee’s conduct in relation to the operation of the licensed service has been such as to justify the revocation of that notice.

5. The Radio Authority is responsible for licensing and regulating Independent Radio in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. It plans frequencies, awards licences, regulates programming and advertising, and plays an active role in the discussion and formulation of policies which affect the Independent Radio industry and its listeners.

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