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“Bailrigg will continue to broadcast on the 87.7 FM frequency on campus”
There is cause for celebration at Bailrigg FM following Lancaster University Students’ Union recent statement, as they continue to keep the ‘FM’ in their name.
After a period of uncertainty in their future, the Students’ Union have revoked their previous decision to end the student radio station’s FM licence, a privilege coveted by other ‘online-only’ student stations across the UK.
Bailrigg FM is not only one of the oldest student radio stations in the UK, but also the first student radio station to broadcast on FM. Airing 24/7, all year round, Bailrigg FM has broadcast news and entertainment on 87.7 FM for the enjoyment of staff and students across Lancaster University campus for decades. And, in this time has received numerous national Student Radio Awards.
The Story So Far
The Students’ Union informed the station team on 1st April 2019 that they would discontinue their FM licence.
On 12th April, the station’s Facebook page (87.7 Bailrigg FM) responded with a petition urging the Students’ Union to reverse their decision, which went on to receive over 1,000 signatures. Two days later, the page indulged in a screenshot-posting splurge detailing the outrage felt by numerous over the decision taken by the to cut Bailrigg FM’s licence.
The Students’ Union released a statement on 9th April 2019. They reasoned: “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 the timing of certain content. It will also free the considerable staff time that is currently spent managing the Ofcom licence.”
The station found difficulties in the past with adhering to Ofcom regulations, as evidenced by an FOI request made on 22nd November 2018. This revealed complaints made against Bailrigg for breach of regulations, however after careful assessment of the complaint Ofcom did not identify any issues that warranted further investigation.
However, for many the station’s associations with Ofcom that motivated student involvement. That Bailrigg FM was a ‘proper’ radio station, limited by Ofcom regulation, which stood out from the swarm of unnoticed ‘online-only’ student radio stations only strengthened the positions of those who worked there.
Pascal Maguet (former Bailrigg FM Station Manager) had been working with his team to reverse the cancellation of Bailrigg FM’s licence. He credits his experience at the station with affording him a place on his master’s program. He said that, for many, working at the station “has played an important role as a stepping stone, often the first, into a career in broadcast media or journalism.” Maguet argued that decisions like these “erode the legitimacy of student outlets as places to learn valuable skills.”
In their 9th April statement, the Students’ Union also attracts our attention to the point that “the original idea to drop the FM licence came from within Bailrigg FM – not from the union.” Nathan Rogers (Station Manager at the time) had tweeted that he “was for the idea” because “the only argument presented for keeping the FM licence was prestige.” However, in the same series of tweets, he urged that “the Management Committee had not had a chance to discuss the pros and cons properly” and that following their meeting he had changed his mind. Rogers made the point in his tweets that though the station suggested the idea, it was “[t]he only viable option for the cost-cutting enforced by [the students’ union].”
Speaking to SCAN, Rogers commented: “I feel like my Twitter threads in response to the official SU tweet and the tweet from the former SU President comprehensively cover my feelings on the matter. That said, I am happy this has all been resolved and I hope that this helps the radio station thrive in my last year at Lancaster and long after I leave.”
The Students’ Union stated that their decision to end Bailrigg FM’s licence “[wasn’t] driven by financial considerations [but was] about organisational sustainability”, implying there were no budget cuts. Or, that budget cuts were secondary to the primary purpose of improving organisational stability. Rogers disputes this, arguing that because of budget cuts, “[t]he only viable option was to cut the FM licence”.
The Head of News for Bailrigg FM, Benji Holmes, informed us then-manager Nathan Rogers told him that the Students’ Union made initial cuts. Which, in turn, forced Rogers to suggest cancellation of the station’s licence upon first consideration. The station’s management soon appealed this suggestion but ignored until student-alumni opposition encouraged the Students’ Union capitulation.
A positive ending.
The Lancaster University Students’ Union Trustee Board resolved that Bailrigg FM’s licence will be maintained.
The Students’ Union recent statement on the matter, released 16th August 2019, announced their decision:
“Bailrigg will continue to broadcast on the 87.7 FM frequency on campus […] The union is pleased to support Bailrigg FM’s executive in this work and looks forward to seeing the station develop and improve.”
The University was asked for a statement but declined.
Bailrigg FM’s new executive team expressed their satisfaction with the victory. They stated: “the decision from the Students’ Union to not cut our FM licence means the world to us.” They echoed the value of broadcasting on FM declared by students and alumni and thanked the union for their reconsideration.
As ever, you can listen to Bailrigg FM on Lancaster University campus on 87.7 FM or online at bailriggfm.co.uk/