Bailrigg FM set to lose licence due to SU budget cuts

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Lancaster University’s student radio station 87.7 Bailrigg FM have recently been informed by the Students’ Union that due to budget cuts they will no longer be financially supporting their broadcasting license. From the end of August 2019, the station will be going online-only after losing their 20-year license, and will no longer be regulated by Ofcom.

Bailrigg is one of the oldest student radio stations in the country, having been on air since 1969. It was also the first student station to broadcast on FM in 1994.

Vice-President (Elect) for Campaigns & Communications Lewis Marriott spoke to SCAN. He said: “I think the situation is awful, it’s really unfair of the union to keep cutting student media’s budget when the university doesn’t offer any practical media courses because how else are people going to learn those skills? Myself and three other FTOs have already agreed to help Pascal fight the union on their decision in hope that they will change their mind.”

Marriott suggested that the other three officer elects who will be supporting station manager Pascal Maguet are George Nuttall, Grishma Bijukumar and Hannah Prydderch who will be taking on the roles of President, VP Welfare and Community and VP Union Development respectively.

Bailrigg FM are not the only student media to be affected by the SU’s budget cuts. In the 2019/2020 academic year, SCAN will be receiving a £1,750 cut to their budget. The SU have recently published an online survey for students to fill out which asks students to rank, in order of importance, what the priority of investment for the budgets of FTO’s to be. These include all of the student media outlets, FTO and PTO budgets and the college JCR’s.

Speaking to the News Team, SCAN Editor Conor Giblin has said, “Whilst this does present Bailrigg with the opportunity of having fewer content restrictions, it is sad to see such a well-established student FM radio station losing its historic licence. The FM licence is something that sets Bailrigg apart from other student radio stations and it gives Bailrigg members, who aspire to work in radio after graduating, a realistic industry experience of being subject to Ofcom regulations. Despite these budget cuts, I hope the Students’ Union continue to support all student media groups and help Bailrigg with the transition away from FM over the next few months, as it is not an easy task.” 

The Students’ Union have said, “There has been a significant amount of debate this week about the union’s plans for Bailrigg FM to stop broadcasting on the airwaves and become an online-only station. Although this is being portrayed as a money-saving plan by the union, this decision isn’t driven by financial considerations and is about organisational sustainability. We need to ensure the union’s activity maximises the benefits for the most students, as a collective we do not see that holding an FM licence achieves this and is the best use of our resources. There are some cost savings that will be made, and the Full-Time Officer Team plans to distribute the money released as a result of this change to our liberation groups. The main reason we’re looking to make this change to ensure the sustainability of the station’s operations.”

“Holding an FM licence comes with numerous responsibilities and some complex technical requirements. Removing the FM licence will mean that the station will no longer need to adhere to Ofcom regulations and will give the station more freedom and flexibility, such as removing the requirement to broadcast 24/7, and relaxing restrictions on timing of certain content. It will also free the considerable staff time that is currently spent managing the Ofcom licence.”

They also suggested that the original idea to remove the FM license came from within Bailrigg FM and not the union. They stated, “Some members of the station told us this year that they would prefer the station to be online-only as it would give more freedom on content, and that was the starting point for this process. Bailrigg FM has been a broadcast station for many years and generations of students have been and continue to be involved. That’s something we’re proud of, but it doesn’t mean that making changes should be off-limits.”

“With the broadcasting landscape changing and the rise of online-only radio stations, this change presents an opportunity for Bailrigg FM to modernise and give its members an experience that reflects the modern media landscape and the changing habits of listeners.”

In response to this statement, former Bailrigg Station Manager Nathan Rogers has said, ‘I want to clarify that the idea coming from the station is not what it seems. During that meeting, we looked at the cost of everything in the budget. The only viable option was to cut the FM license because everything else would stop us broadcasting entirely since any substantial money is spent on licenses. ‘

‘I find the statement does not have all the facts laid out here. Granted, at the time, the only argument presented for keeping the FM license was prestige and seemed like a good idea and I was for the idea. However, the Management Committee had not had a chance to discuss the pros and cons properly. Following the ManCom meeting, I had changed my mind. Pascal asked for a week before any decisions were to be made but it seems like the decision was already made and they just needed the departing (and now former) Station Manager to say that it was a good idea rather than the backing of the society itself. To say it was our idea when in fact it was the only viable option for the cost cutting enforced by The SU is just disingenuous.’

In a statement published by the radio station, Bailrigg have said, ‘Thank everyone who’s been part of Bailrigg’s 50-year-story so far, the listeners, collaborators and team members, and hope you will continue to support us in the future.”

Speaking to SCAN about the position of their members on the loss of their license, they stated, “Our team is generally upset and confused by the SU’s actions, and with their lack of cooperation with the proposed alternative solutions to keep the licence, many of us are left feeling that this is less of a necessary cut but more an attack on our society’s identity, history and the employability of our members.”

Olivia Kenny

Hi! I'm Olivia (but everyone calls me Liv) and I'm the Associate Editor for SCAN for 2019-2020. I was previously the News Editor and have contributed to the section since the beginning of my first year. Now in my third year, SCAN is a huge part of my University life. Feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you!

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