Harrogate Hospital Radio wins FM licence petition

The delighted chairman of the town’s longest running radio station has been talking about how the station won its three-year campaign for an FM licence to allow it to broadcast to a wider audience.

Thursday, 24th June 2021, 11:37 am
Mark Oldfield and the Harrogate Hospital Radio team celebrate winning the FM licence after a successful petition to Ofcom.

Award-winning broadcaster Mark Oldfield, chair of Harrogate Hospital Radio, the town’s longest running radio station, said the news meant HHR was able not only to be a great radio station station for patients in Harrogate District Hospital but the surrounding area’s dedicated local radio station.

The plan now for Harrogate Hospital Radio is to switch on its FM frequency live at 9.53am on Wednesday, September, 1 when it will broadcast for the first time on 95.3FM.

But Mark Oldfield explained it had been a long and complex fight to win the FM licence in which they had had to come back with support from the town's MP Andrew Jones after their licence bid had been rejected initially by the government's broadcasting regulator The Office of Communications.

Mr Oldfield said: "In 2018, I decided to apply to Ofcom for a FM licence, to enable us to broadcast to a wider ‘local’ audience.

"The application was turned down because according to Ofcom, ‘there was no frequency available for us to broadcast’!

"In 2019, Harrogate lost its only local FM radio station to a national franchise, which, in my opinion, left a hole without any local contact and local approach. Because of this, and having researched availability of FM frequencies, I decided to apply once again to Ofcom, which was once again rejected!

"I then to set up a petition and had a zoom meeting with our local MP, Andrew Jones, who told me he would help as much as possible to try gain a licence. He truly believed we had a very good case to provide a service to the patients, patients’ families, visitors and staff at Harrogate District Hospital.

"In November 2019, I had a meeting with Paul Mercer, an Ofcom director, who informed me there was a possibility in the near future that Ofcom would be looking at granting restricted FM licences to a maximum of ten hospital radio stations like ours and similar organisations.

"Early this year, I was invited to resubmit my application and, finally, at the end of May, I got a call from Ofcom to inform me my application had been successful.

"This week I got the confirmation email!"

The Harrogate Hospital Radio chairman said the official launch of HHR on FM would take place on September 1s when he would be hosting a special show from 9am then Andrew Jones MP who will be officially be pressing the first 95.3FM jingle button at 9.53am

"For the first time we will welcome listeners at Harrogate District Hospital and surrounding area to Harrogate Hospital Radio on FM.

"Our aim is for more patients to listen to Harrogate Hospital Radio with the purchase of approximately 300 FM radios, so each bed will have a radio to listen to, and to request music on Harrogate Hospital Radio.

"We have committed to be more visible in the community, when we bring the ‘outside in’, such as events as The Great Yorkshire Show, The Fake Festival on The Stray, and The Nidderdale Show, to name a few live outside broadcasts."

The road to FM success began when Harrogate Hospital Radio was confronted with an unexpected practical dilemma for the station and its listeners.

Mr Oldfield explained: "Back in May 2018, Harrogate District Hospital Foundation NHS Trust decided to end its contract with bedside entertainment company, Hospedia

"The contract ended in November 2019.

"I was informed of the impending change by the Trust’s head of IT at the time, and in short panicked at the prospect of Harrogate Hospital Radio folding, as, at the time, we had no way of broadcasting to patients at the hospital.

"However, in a very short time, we looked at what we could do to stay on air, and began broadcasting online.

"At a subsequent committee meeting, we decided to look at developing app, which patients, their family & friends, and staff could download and then listen to HHR anywhere in the world.

"This was up and running within a month - and as they say the rest is history.

"Since we went online and developed our app, I did a lot of research in WiFi radios, and decided to buy some to trial in various hospital departments. The first was placed on reception, and remains there to this day, playing Harrogate Hospital Radio 24/7 to entertain patients, visitors and staff, who pass through the hospital’s entrance.

"To date, we have more than 55 WiFi radios within the hospital, located in numerous and departments, all tuned in to Harrogate Hospital Radio.

"They say things are meant to be for a reason, in HHR’s case that is definitely true, because we have trebled our listening figures as we broadcast not only to HDFT, but we’re available for anyone, anywhere to enable people to listen all over the world."

In another potentially major step forward for local radio in Harrogate, the hospital radio team announced it would be joining forces to support a new DAB revolution in the town.

The bid for a new DAB service ‘multiplex’ is being led by Your Harrogate and broadcaster Nick Hancock but Harrogate Hospital Radio has said it is happy to be part of the syndicate required to pay for the ‘multiplex’ licence to operate DAB radio services locally.

Online Harrogate radio service HG1 Radio may have closed recently after nine months of operating but Harrogate listeners are still enjoying something of a local radio boom - despite the demise last year of Stray FM.

As well as recent newcomer Your Harrogate and Harrogate Hospital Radio, which has been going strong since 1977, other local broadcasters include Harrogate Community Radio which was launched in August 2019.

Greatest Hits Radio took over from Stray FM in 2019.

For more information on Harrogate Hospital Radio, visit:

www.harrogatehospitalradio.org.uk/

or call 01423 553342

A message from the Editor

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper.

Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.