Bailrigg FM: Lancaster’s student sound to lose FM license due to budget cuts
LUSU are against crowdfunding plan
87.7 Bailrigg FM, Lancaster University’s on-campus radio station, has been informed by the Students' Union that it will have to suspend its FM license.
This comes with worries of budget cuts to other student media outlets, which depend on the SU for funding. The station’s elected management committee have been in negotiations with Union officials, but hope of keeping the license looks slim.
The management committee at Bailrigg FM are currently deliberating what course of action to take, while trying to iron out the details of next year’s budget and with the Student Union.
The radio exec is still pushing for a crowdfunding project, but the Union claims that this idea makes them feel ‘uncomfortable’, and without LUSU’s support a crowdfunding project seems doomed to fail, as the SU also acts as Bailrigg FM’s Licensee.
After the story broke on subtext, current local government candidates for the Labour Party Jack O’Dwyer-Henry, Oliver Robinson and Katie Whearty expressed their disappointment at LUSU’s decision to cut the FM license.
In a recent statement, the Union claimed that suggestions to cut the license actually came from within Bailrigg FM, but former and current station execs have since disputed this claim, labelling it 'disingenuous'.
Current station manager Pascal Maguet also recently spoke to Graham Liver on BBC Radio Lancashire about changes to the station, which have been condemned on social media by alumni, student societies and even student media from other universities.
Bailrigg FM’s status as an FM station means much more to members than simply being able to broadcast on an FM frequency. As the station’s Head of News and Speech, allow me to break down some of the reasons why losing our license would be a major blow.
Why is the FM status important?
Bailrigg FM was the UK’s first student radio station to broadcast on FM, and the foundations of what the station is today were built on benchmarks like this. Much in the same way that Lancaster University prides itself on its position in the university rankings, our radio station wears its FM license as a badge of honour, a reminder of who we are and where we come from.
Given that Bailrigg FM’s 50th anniversary is this year, the worries of losing our FM license couldn’t be coming at a worse time. The exec have already planned an entire weekend of events for alumni, current members and anyone with an interest in radio. Some alumni have privately expressed their concern at the prospect of seeing Bailrigg FM take such a big step backwards. After all, it was the actions of one eager student starting his own pirate radio station that lead to Bailrigg FM’s creation in the first place.
As many Bailrigg FM alumni will attest, being able to write "experience in an FM radio station" does wonders for your CV. Amongst Bailrigg FM’s notable alumni is Andy Serkis, whose work includes The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just to name a few. Dozens of former Bailrigg members have gone on to find work in the BBC, Global and many other organisations thanks to the experience in working with FM and OFCOM that the station provided them.
Media, journalism and marketing are some of the UK’s biggest growth industries right now, and with MediaCityUK just 50 miles away in Salford, the last thing LUSU should be doing is cutting Student Media budgets. Furthermore, as the university does not offer skill and industry-based media courses, Bailrigg FM, LA1 and SCAN (our sister TV and Newspaper outlets) each play a huge role in preparing media students for a job in their field.
If you’re a student at Lancaster, you’ll be familiar with the name ‘Bailrigg FM’. It’s on our stickers, it’s on our freshers banner, it’s on the recordings we play at the beginning, middle and end of our shows. If the FM license goes, Bailrigg FM won’t be Bailrigg FM anymore, which means all of these things will have to be re-made and replaced. This re-branding would mean a lot of time and effort from student volunteers, many of whom will be preparing to sit their final exams when term recommences.
Losing the licence doesn’t just mean Bailrigg loses it campus-wide FM broadcast (which quite frankly isn’t used much) but more importantly it loses support from online platforms like Radioplayer and TuneIn, which a large percentage of its listeners use.
Are the SU willing to compromise?
The radio exec has suggested raising the money to keep its FM license (unconfirmed but somewhere in the region of £1,000) through a crowdfunding project, but LUSU have claimed that cutting the license is less about money, and more about 'organisational stability' and maximising benefits to students.
Beyond this, the Union have indicated a willingness to help with re-branding and transitioning to a digital platform, and would likely help with increasing Bailrigg FM’s listenership. However, this seems to miss the point of an on-campus radio station. Institutions like Bailrigg FM aren’t about attracting a massive listener base, they’re about offering a training ground to aspiring hosts, producers and engineers, who come to uni to enrich their job prospects.
Lancaster University boasts very high employment rates for its students, but those rates will begin to decrease if more societies are stripped of what makes them special.