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Pure West manager Toby Ellis tells MPs its been ‘impossible’ for him to get a local FM licence

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THE WELSH AFFAIRS COMMITTEE met in Parliament this week to discuss radio broadcasting in Wales (Mar 1).

Toby Ellis, Station Manager, Director and Broadcaster, Pure West Radio was joined by Terry Mann, Station Manager, GTFM Radio and Martin Mumford, Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting as witnesses for Wednesday’s morning session.

Chaired Preseli MP by Stephen Crabb, the two hour meeting provided an interesting insight into the state of radio broadcasting in Wales, and more importantly the challenges of keeping radio relevant to local listeners at a time when many larger broadcasters were amalgamating output across multiple stations to cut costs.

During the session it became obvious that things need to change in Wales when it comes to radio broadcasting, and that the status quo could no be maintained. All the witnesses said that the regulator Ofcom could be doing a lot more to support the future of radio services in Wales, ecpecially when it comes to providing licences to new up and coming stations

Toby Ellis was the first in the hot seat. Asked why Pure West Radio was not on FM, and was relying on internet broadcasting, he explained it was down to red tape.

Toby Ellis said: “We haven’t been able to put an application in; that has been the issue.

“Ofcom told us that there has been no community licence available in Pembrokeshire for you . There is no local commercial radio licence, because that is already occupied until 2025.

“That is it, there is no opportunity for you. However, you can apply for a small-scale DAB, but that rollout has taken some time.

“We’re waiting on the award on that – its exciting because we will be able to explore the DAB market. That’s great – but what about FM – you’ve said you’re not turning it off until 2030 and you’re not opening any FM licences in community or local radio – that is a problem.

Asked if he thought that the government regulator was the problem facing radio broadcasters in Wales, Mr Ellis said: “There are problems with Ofcom. We understand their vision and where it needs to go – but certainly stations like ours have suffered.

“We’re coming up to our fifth birthday on April 4 – its been a huge uphill struggle for us from day dot. Have I been deterred a few times – yes many-a-time. I could stack shelves in Tesco and have less stress and probably earn a lot more money.

“We do it because we are passionate about what we do, and we get a lot of people who get incredibly galvanised by it… There shouldn’t be the constraints we’re having.

“We should be able to access more people and if we had an FM licence we would be more self sufficient – we would create more jobs and we would be able to do what we do better.”
Toby Ellis said if his company had a licence he would have more revenue, and he would be more free from “financial constraints” and do more locally including creating a radio academy and launching a B-Tech in Pembrokeshire College.

“We do not want to go begging for money, when money should be spent in other areas. The NHS locally is in an awful state. The waiting times in our local A&E are shocking. I’d rather that money is spent on nurses than local radio. We can get by – with the correct licences and support from Ofcom and government we would certainly be able to flourish further.”

In summary, anyone wanting to start a community radio station in Wales is stuck with using the internet to broadcast, or local DAB radio – which is not yet operational in all areas of Wales. This is expensive, and for Pure West Radio they would need to rent space on two tranmitters to cover the whole of Pembrokeshire.

FM, while is still surives, would be the cheaper and more viable option for Pure West.

The next witness was Terry Mann, Station Manager, GTFM Radio, based in South Wales. He echoed what Mr Ellis had said and confirmed that Ofcom was not issuing any FM licences, instead concentrating on small-scale DAB, at the behest of the government.

NATION RADIO

The last witness was Martin Mumford, Managing Director, Nation Broadcasting. Chair Stephen Crabb MP asked him how local radio was now.

Stephen Crabb asked: “The vision which Toby Ellis outlined regards a strong role for start up stations serving their communities with real time information communicated to very local audiences, does that have a future in local radio?”

Mr Mumford explained that Nation Radio started in Pembrokeshire over 20 years ago with Radio Pembrokeshire and has been expanding ever since. He explained that nation was operating as much outside Wales as it does in Wales.

“We have been hindered in our expansion because of the lack of radio frequency. Small scale DAB is order-of-the-day
Mr Mumford explained that five years ago 90% of revenue for Nation’s radio stations came from ad sales made by an ‘army of salespeople’ – but that has now shifted to 50%, with the other 50% coming from advertising agencies. He also said that programmatic advertising – advertising through a smart speaker which is tailored to you – is something that Nation are now looking to in the near future..

Mr Mumford also explained that music requirements for radio stations should be done away with. He said that Radio Pembrokeshire has a licence requirement to play pop music – and for example if they wanted to play a classical track they were not allowed. Stephen Crabb agreed – saying that it should be scrapped but the requirement for local news should be kept.

Asked by Stephen Crabb what his definition of local news was, Mr Mumford said that he thought that local news was provided on a national level on his stations in Wales – He said that BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru – which cost £24m per year to operate do news on a Wales-wide level and therefore he felt it was not for Nation to do things more locally if the BBC weren’t

HONOUR TO BE INVITED

Speaking after the Parliamentary session Toby Ellis posted on social media, saying: “Why isn’t Pure West Radio on FM or DAB? A question I get asked on a regular basis. Simply we can’t get a licence, today I went right to the top as I got to ask this question to MPs at the Houses of Parliament at an enquiry into local radio in Wales.

“It was an honour to be invited to give evidence and was a wonderful surprise to have Megan Absalom-Lowe from Haverfordwest High Radio and her family showing support at the hearing.

“We have hopefully been heard loud and clear so we can truly put the local back into local radio and get on the radio waves!”

Toby Ellis, Megan Absalom-Lowe and Mathew Rickard at The Houses of Parliament

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Proposal to give firefighters a council tax discount to go to Cabinet

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PEMBROKESHIRE on-call firefighters could enjoy a reduction in council tax “in recognition of the vital work performed” by them if a call is backed by senior councillors.

At the July 18 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, a Notice of Motion submitted by Newport and Dinas county councillor, and leader of the Independent Group, Cllr Huw Murphy was heard.

Cllr Murphy’s call stated: “There is currently a significant and severe shortage in suitable applicants coming forward to be on-call fire fighters (retained) for the Mid & West Wales Fire Service.

“Currently there are vacancies for on-call fire fighters at all fire stations throughout the region, which impacts considerably upon the safety of both residents and visitors who may need the assistance of the Fire Service. Pembrokeshire is heavily reliant on our on-call firefighters.

“In recognition of the vital work performed by our on-call fire fighters (retained not full time employees of the service) and to encourage others to consider undertaking this vital role within our communities this Notice of Motion proposes that Pembrokeshire County Council offers every retained fire-fighter working and living in Pembrokeshire a 10 per cent reduction in the council tax they pay after achieving a qualifying period of service annually, to be determined by the Chief Fire Officer.”

At the July 18 meeting, members agreed Cllr Murphy’s call be considered by the council’s Cabinet at a later date.

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Newly elected Labour MP reveals how she was raped, age 15

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NEWLY elected Labour MP Natalie Fleet has bravely revealed how she was raped at the age of 15.
In a harrowing GBNews.com interview to be broadcast this Sunday (July 21), Ms Fleet says she still has “weekly nightmares” about what happened two decades on from the attack.
After being raped, Ms Fleet fell pregnant but says the daughter she gave birth to is now the “love of her life”.
Sitting down with GB News’ Gloria De Piero in an exclusive interview she explains that she’s decided to speak about what happened because the actions of her attacker – who told her to have an abortion – were “not ok”.
Ms Fleet also fears many women are suffering and unable to get the support they need.
That’s why she plans to use her platform in Parliament to use her teenage experiences, which also saw her spent a period homeless, as a catalyst for change.
Reflecting on what happened to her two decades ago, Ms Fleet, now a mother-of-four, said: “Today, 23 years later, I look back and I think, it wasn’t ok. That was an older man. I didn’t know we were having unprotected sex. I was a child and (it) is statutory rape. At the time this isn’t something that we were talking about. It’s not how I saw myself. I still have weekly nightmares about it.
“I have a huge privilege and advantage to be in Parliament and I’m thrilled to be here. But what happened in my childhood still has a massive impact on me, which is why I’m so excited about what the next Labour government is going to do.
“At 15, you definitely think you’re old enough to do all these things. I wanted to give my daughter the best life. But another thing that I can do now I’m in Parliament is I want to be a voice for all of those people, all of those women that have children in far from ideal circumstances.
“That’s why I wanted to talk about where my daughter came from and about what happened. It was really difficult for me to say to her, ‘I don’t think this was entirely consensual, and I think I might have been groomed, and I don’t think this is an appropriate relationship’. She took it really well. I Googled in advance f0r some tips, just a fact sheet or ‘how to deal with this’ and I found nothing.
“I found absolutely nothing. I found there were fact sheets about rape being used as a war crime. But there was nothing else. There’s no acknowledgement that it happens in the UK. And the more research I’ve done, I’ve found that there are over 3,000 conceptions every year from rape. But there’s no charity to support those women.
“There’s no help, advice, or support helpline that you can go to. No help on ‘how do I tell my child, that I love, that is everything to me, that this is where they came from?’”
Explaining why extra support in this area is so desperately needed she continued: “It is biologically very clear what happened to me because I was 15 years old, and he was older. I can prove where she came from, so that’s statutory rape. But there are so many women that this happens too who don’t speak about it.


“They dare not speak about it because they know they won’t be believed. And then even if by some miracle, we move to a society where women are believed, once you say this is your child, then that man can come and have access to that child.
“Even if you prove it’s rape, that man can have access to that child and help bring it up. And that’s absolutely terrifying. This is a perpetrator that has hurt the mother, who can then have access to the child.
“He told me to have an abortion at the time. He’s never met her. He never wanted anything to do with it. And he was very dismissive. He told me many times that he knew lots of ways that he wouldn’t have to pay a penny towards her, because all his friends had already evaded the CSA.”
Describing the relationship she now has with her daughter, Ms Fleet said: “So she’s 23 now and is the absolute love of my life. I am so proud of everything she is. I am thrilled. She makes me proud every single day. But at the time, when I was 15, I felt full of shame and guilt and responsibility. And all I was determined to do was make sure that she had a life that was as good as she would have had to any age parent. That was what I was determined to do.”
Outlining how she plans to use her role as an MP to push for change, she said: “I am a product of the last Labour government. It wasn’t a perfect Government, but it changed my life and it was transformational. When I was younger, things were tough and I had a Labour government.
“When we were homeless, the Labour government made sure that there was enough housing stock for us to be rehoused. And then when I had my first child at a very young age, I could send her to a Sure Start nursery. I could carry on, go to university with a first in the family scholarship.
“I could work in a minimum wage job. I could send my children because I’d got two by then, to a Sure Start nursery, and it just felt like I needed the support of the state. And my God, I got it.
“And, before I became an MP, I worked for a trade union and I was absolutely desperate to give back to my teachers. My teachers had invested in me. The Labour government made sure that my teachers had time to teach me and look after me, and I then saw that I was paying taxes and they weren’t being invested in young children like me or teachers. That’s why we needed a new Government?”
“On my estate, the estate where we were rehoused, I looked around and people struggled. And I see now there are people that I was close to when I was younger who are now suffering with addiction and poverty scars.
“What poverty has done to me has meant that I work and work and work and work and work. If somebody knocks on my door, I won’t answer it because I’m still scared it’s the bailiffs. That’s what happens to you in your childhood, it stays with you. In areas of Bolsover it’s absolutely heart-breaking.
“But I could either be angry about what’s happened over the past 14 years, sad and feel powerless, or I could come into Parliament and try and do something about it. I mean, what an honour.”

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Second home numbers in Pembrokeshire drop after council tax hike

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THE NUMBER of second homes and self-catering holiday properties in Pembrokeshire has declined year-on-year, while those seeking council tax exceptions have, in one class, gone up 255 per cent.

A call for an update on Pembrokeshire County Council’s position on a potential relaxation of the ‘182-day’ rule, allowing self-catering accommodation to avoid paying a council tax premium was heard at the July meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council.

Last year, the rules on holiday lets in Wales changed; Welsh Government criteria saying holiday lets must be filled for 182 days a year – up from a previous 70 – in order to qualify for business rates rather than pay second homes council tax.

In Pembrokeshire, second homes, and self-catering businesses not meeting the criteria, are now paying a 200 per cent council tax premium in the county, effectively a treble rate of council tax.

At the July 18 meeting of full council, a question was submitted by Cllr Huw Murphy was heard, a follow-up from a previously unsuccessful notice of motion where he had called for a relaxation in the ‘182-day’ rules in the county down to 140 days.

After that notice failed last year, it was agreed the position be reviewed in 12 months, with Cabinet agreeing to write to Welsh Government to highlight concern over the 182-day occupancy rule.

In his question, Cllr Murphy said: “Can council be provided with an update of what data has been obtained since Dec 2023 to examine the impact of the 182-day occupancy rule for self-catering properties in advance of a review to be completed by December 2024 prior to any decision over what level of second home council tax to be levied for 2024/25 as it may be necessary to consider a reduction to support an industry under pressure?

“Have PCC received a reply from WG with regards to the concerns raised with regards to the 182-day rule and its impact on the Pembrokeshire tourism industry?”

In response, Cabinet Member for Corporate Finance and Efficiencies Cllr Joshua Beynon said a decision on future council tax premiums would be made by full council at its October meeting, after earlier committee discussions, adding that the council is currently undertaking a consultation on the second homes and long-term empty property premiums and has included questions on using its discretion on properties which did not meet the 182-day rule.

“In the interim, the Revenues team are monitoring the movement in second homes and self-catering units and the number of properties receiving an exception to paying the council tax premium,” he told members.

Members heard, as of July 1, the main increases in the level of exceptions related to Class 1 exceptions, properties that are up for sale, which had increased by 97 in the last 12 months, a rise of 255 per cent, and in Class 6 exceptions, properties that have a planning condition prohibiting year-round occupancy, which had increased by 78, or 21.6 per cent, with an overall increase in the seven classes of exemptions of 37.45 per cent.

Councillors were told the number of second homes had dropped year-on-year on that date from 3,364 to 3,271, roughly a 2.7 per cent drop; self-catering units dropping from 2,621 to 2,425, roughly 7.47 per cent.

Members heard, in response to Cllr Murphy’s second question, the-then leader Cllr David Simpson had received a response in May.

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