BCI licenses Christian station in Cork

September 21st, 2005 | by Andrew Ó Baoill |

I’m a few days late with this, but the BCI has granted a community of interest licence to a religious radio station in Cork:

At its Board Meeting on Monday September 5th last, the Commission decided to award a licence in principle to LifeFM for the operation of a community of interest service in Cork City. Subject to the successful completion of contract negotiations, the Commission will enter into a five-year contract with the group for the provision of a radio service for Cork’s Christian community.

This obviously raises the same concerns about balance that the proposed national station does, but adds the extra wrinkle that being a community of interest station LifeFM will be bound by the AMARC charter.

The same announcement included a three-phase plan for advertising community station licenses, including, in February 2006, the student station in Galway – that is, Flirt FM’s license. Life FM describe their plans as:

The main aim of LifeFm will be to provide Cork’s Christian Community with its own unique radio station that reflects their lives and aspirations, while maintaining Christian ethos. There will also be many unique elements like Sunday morning Celebration, Thought for the Day, Lives of the Saints and scripture readings together with several multi-cultural programmes. Musically the station will deliver a mixture of contemporary and traditional Christian music together with secular music that fits our audience’s value system.

Given the frequent centrality to discussions of abortion issues in Ireland, I wonder whether a station called Life FM can be fair and impartial in covering the matter? An excerpt from their application gives a hint as to the answer:

The station will have all the normal elements expected, such as news and current affairs, community information, music and chat, but with one major difference in that we will reflect our Christian audience’s value system and not the media’s value system.

Given the explicit ban in the law on expressing station views on air I wonder how the BCI can have let this pass? Oh, and in case you’re wondering, that explicit ban comes from the 1988 Radio and Television Act, section 9 (1) (b):

9. (1) Every sound broadcasting contractor shall ensure that –

( b ) the broadcast treatment of current affairs, including matters which are either of public controversy or the subject of current public debate, is fair to all interests concerned and that the broadcast matter is presented in an objective and impartial manner and without any expression of his own views

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