By Michael Ireland
WEST BROMWICH, WEST MIDLANDS, U.K (February 21, 2001) -- The battle for the airwaves of the UK continues.
J Peter Wilson, Director of VOICE FM in the West Bromwich area of the British Midlands, and former Station Director of 97.2 Stray FM in Harrogate, Yorkshire, reports: "We have recently received the news that the Radio Authority has declined our application for the West Midlands FM License.
"We are naturally very disappointed after having submitted, what we believe, to be a very credible application. We are not able to establish the reasons why we were unsuccessful, however, we are absolutely certain it was not for lack of support from you or effort from the team here that was working on the proposal," said Wilson in a letter to supporters.
"We, of course, have to accept the decision of the Radio Authority, and I am sure they had a difficult decision to make, in which all applicants would have received due consideration. We extend to Saga Radio, who was the successful applicant, our best wishes for the future."
Wilson continued: "We want to thank you for your tremendous support, even though we know you too will be as disappointed as we are. At least as Christians, whilst we may not always understand, we can be comforted by the fact that God is in ultimate control."
He added: "Britain desperately needs clean and safe family-orientated media, which caters for the physical, spiritual and emotional need of its citizens. Let us pray and hope that opportunities will arise in the future for this need to be met whether by us or others."
VOICE FM APPLICATION
Wilson said: "The Radio Authority declined our application for the radio license for the West Midlands second FM regional license, but we are not downhearted as God is in ultimate control and we believe that new doors will open.
"Our Paragon Research showed that 28% of the potential audience in the West Midlands sample (that is 775,600 people) would listen to a radio station playing contemporary Christian and Gospel music."
To whom, and why, is an Independent Local Radio (ILR) license issued?
"It goes to the company that the Radio Authority feel will be able to financially support their programme plans, which must be different from existing ILR stations in the region. In January 2001 the Radio Authority decided to give the second West Midlands FM license to Saga Radio with their format of programming for the over 50s. We believed that our application of family-friendly Christian Hit Radio extended listener choice as required by the 1990 Broadcasting Act, but the final decision is with the Radio Authority," Wilson explained.
Why does VOICE FM Radio need listener support now?
"It is a requirement of the 1990 Broadcasting Act that we need to show 'the extent to which any application for the license is supported by persons living in that area or locality.' Even though the Radio Authority declined our application for the second West Midlands FM radio license, we are not looking backwards, but we are seeking the Lord's guidance on how VOICE FM can progress plans for broadcasting within the UK. Our West Midlands parent organization, Christian Vision, already broadcasts overseas in Africa, Asia and Latin America," said Wilson.
"Premier Christian Radio already broadcasts throughout London. UCB (United Christian Broadcasters) broadcast from satellite and they wish to broadcast as a national radio station," Wilson added.
What is the current legal position for Christian broadcasters?
"At present the law in the UK only allows 'religious bodies' to operate and own local analogue FM or AM (medium wave) radio stations and bans them from operating a national analogue station, owning a digital radio multiplex or even being a programme provider on a digital radio multiplex," Wilson said.
"Following lobbying from many organizations, including the commercial radio trade association (of which VOICE FM is a member), the government has proposed in its document 'A New Future for Communications' that they 'will address one anomaly in the current legislation about ownership of radio licenses by religious bodies. Such bodies may own a local terrestrial analogue, but not a local terrestrial digital license. This disqualification will be lifted in the new legislation.'"
What can Christians do?
"Firstly pray for VOICE FM and other Christian radio initiatives, asking the Lord to give us guidance on the way forward. Secondly read the VOICE FM response to the Government White Paper called A New Future for Communications, which can be found on our Press Releases page:
"Even though the response to this government document had to be in before 12th February 2001, we would suggest that you write to your local Member of Parliament supporting VOICE FM and our plans to broadcast as a local/regional radio station on FM or AM or Digital Radio. The name of your Member of Parliament can be found at your local library and their address is: House of Commons, London W1A 1AA, UK.
Would VOICE FM carry advertisements?
"VOICE FM would be a commercial radio station financed through a combination of spot advertisements and sponsorship of such elements as Traffic and Travel News," Wilson said.
What can VOICE FM do now?
"Although we have been denied a radio license for the moment, we will look to the future. There are a number of options that would enable members of the VOICE FM team to plan for radio broadcasting in the UK in the future," he said.
Wilson noted that the UK government will remove the band of Christian radio stations on local Digital Radio (Eureka 147 T-DAB) multiplexes and that the Radio Authority is supporting the case for a multi-faith national station on Digital Radio. "That should be interesting!" said Wilson.
"We know that it is a long battle to get commercial Christian radio in the UK, but we believe that the timing is the Lord's. There have been attempts to win ILR licenses in Bournemouth, Central Scotland, North East, North West and by VOICE FM in the West Midlands. As you know, Premier Christian Radio broadcast on AM in London and UCB broadcast on Sky Digital satellite on the UK and Europe."
Wilson said there are other opportunities are now appearing with non-commercial access radio and that he attended a recent Radio Authority seminar on that topic.
"We should see progress in the next Broadcasting and Communications legislation in 2002/03," he said.
Wilson is asking believers who support Christian radio to write to the Radio Authority stating why they would like to see local/regional Christian radio in West Midlands and other parts of the UK.
The Radio Authority's address is: The Head of Development, The Radio Authority, Holbrook House, 14 Great Queen Street, London WC2B 5DG, UK.
Please send a copy of your letter to the Authority to Wilson at: VOICE FM (Christian Voice), FREEPOST (MID 16809), PO Box 3040, Ryder Street, West Bromwich B70 0EL, UK.