Why you should support Harrogate Hospital Radio's petition for desperately needed FM licence

Harrogate’s longest-running radio station – denied the opportunity to broadcast on FM - is launching a petition to overturn the decision.

By Graham Chalmers
Monday, 26th October 2020, 2:41 pm
Harrogate Hospital Radio chairman Mark Oldfield - “To say I was disappointed was a total understatement."
Harrogate Hospital Radio chairman Mark Oldfield - “To say I was disappointed was a total understatement."

Two years ago, Harrogate Hospital Radio, which first took to the airwaves in October 1977, had its first application for a Long-term Restricted Service Licence (LRSL) to broadcast on FM within Harrogate rejected.

A restricted service licence means a radio station can only broadcast over a relatively short distance, and was used annually by Festival Radio ahead of it becoming Stray FM.

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On that occasion, Ofcom’s reason for denying the volunteer-led station this opportunity was because the regulator had recently issued a Short Restricted Service Licence (SRSL) in the area.

However, earlier this year, HHR chairman Mark Oldfield reapplied after an Ofcom insider said local frequencies were available. Again, his application was knocked back, this time because the regulator had issued an SRSL to the Yorkshire Show Ground for ‘drive in movies’.

Mark Oldfield said: “To say I was disappointed was a total understatement. We are desperate to provide a local radio service, not only to patients and staff, but family and friends within Harrogate itself.

“Each application costs £200 and, with Stray FM losing its local identify by becoming part of the Greatest Hits Radio network, we thought it would be looked on favourably.

“I wrote to our local MP, Andrew Jones, who I had a video conference with asking for his help. We also have the backing of Harrogate Hospital Trust.

“However, this week I received an email from Paul Mercer, director of Broadcast Licensing and Programme Operation Broadcast and Online Content Group, informing me our application had been rejected.

“Because of this, we have launched an online petition to draw attention to our campaign to broadcast on FM.”

Mark added: “Two years ago, the contract at the hospital that provided the bedside entertainment systems was cancelled, which were then subsequently removed.

“To enable patients and staff to still listen to us we had to provide WiFi radios within wards and public areas.

"This is particularly beneficial for those patients without smart phones or tablets.

“If we are successful in obtaining an FM licence, HHR would then buy FM radios, which are much cheaper than the WiFi radios, and will give every patient a radio to have at their bedside to listen to HHR.

“Broadcasting on FM would also benefit patients’ families and care homes within a close radius of the hospital, as they would be able to pick us up on FM.

“It’s the next logical step in our continual evolution, and a step that we are determined to take.”

The online petition can be found at http://chng.it/SkRbPrX6

Further information about Harrogate Hospital Radio is available from its website, http://www.harrogatehospitalradio.org.uk/

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