Inishowen Community Radio

IRTC pressure community station to remove programme

A morning chat show on a licensed community radio station has been forced off the air as a result of pressure from the IRTC. Patrick J Ferguson’s magazine-style show aired on Inishowen Community Radio in Donegal from 10am every morning.
“Suddenly the I.R.T.C decided to request that my programme be moved to a later slot in the day because they said it was in conflict with a similar type radio show from the commercial sector,” Patrick told Radiowaves News.
“As I work from the afternoon through to the early hours of the morning I could not broadcast the programme at any other time. I believe that a commercial radio station put pressure on the I.R.T.C to request its removal from the morning slot.”
Patrick has forwarded a letter to all Irish licensed commercial radio stations and the media. The full text can be read below…

An open letter to the commercial radio sector Re: Community Radio
4 Pillar Park, Buncrana, Inishowen, Co Donegal

Dear Station Manager,
From my understanding, the ethos of community radio is to supply via the airwaves an alternative programme schedule (from that of a commercial franchise holder), to the community for which they have received a licence to broadcast to. It is also fair to say that community radio programming is designed to entertain, inform and educate it’s listeners in subjects that the listeners may not hear on commercial radio but find important to them. I totally agree with those principles.

Community radio is not, nor should the commercial sector conceive them to be a threat to their existence, but instead should help to nurture and support them as a viable part of community life especially in area’s where (because of logistical, financial and geographical reasons) the commercial sector is unable to broadcast their programmes to all of the towns and villages in their franchise area.

There are a number of such commercial franchise holders who are encountering this problem. Galway, North Donegal and Clare are three such licence holders and as the I.R.T.C continue to approve new community radio licences, I’m sure other commercial franchise holders throughout Ireland will also be included in that list over the next few years or so.

Because of their geographical location and at times their inaccessibility by road never mind the airwaves, West Clare, Connemara, and Inishowen are such areas, to have received community radio licences from the I.R.T.C over the past number of years. I think it is only right that the residents of these areas receive some form of local radio be it be it from the commercial or community sectors, (in these three cases they are receiving radio programmes from the latter).

Whilst I can understand the fears of the commercial sector of infringement (on the hours of broadcasting, programming, advertising, etc) by community stations within their franchise area, they should be aware of the constraints imposed on those same community radio stations by the I.R.T.C. Here are a few of them. Restrictions on the size of transmitters, Limited broadcasting hours, 6 minutes of advertising against 15 for commercial radio stations, enforced repeating of programming and the latest constraint the timing on which certain programmes can be aired. These are just a few of them but believe me as you are well aware there are many, many more.

It seems that freedom of speech and the right to freedom of expression are out the window when it comes to those volunteers involved in community radio. The same constraints have not been imposed on the commercial sector so why should that same sector be afraid of the concept of community radio, I know that if I was in their shoes I wouldn’t be.

Finally let me make this heartfelt request to the commercial sector involved in radio (locally & nationally) give COMMUNITY RADIO a chance. It is not there to be in competition with you. It is there to support you albeit by a choice of different programming, (or in some cases the style of that programming may be similar to that of a franchise holder but yet technically can be classified as an alternative because the town, village or hamlet does not receive a signal broadcast from the franchise holder) in those area’s where your signal is not received by a substantial number of residents within your franchise area.

Yours truly, Patrick J Ferguson