St Albans radio champions defend station’s choices in wake of controversy

Danny Smith. Picture: Kevin Lines

Danny Smith. Picture: Kevin Lines - Credit: Archant

Champions of St Albans’ local radio station have leapt to its defence in the wake of the ongoing public controversy.

After last week’s article about Radio Verulam’s stance on religious broadcasting, supporters of the station have defended its recent choices, which include dismissing West Herts Drivetime host Danny Smith.

His volunteering has been terminated after a decade at the station for speaking out about what he believes is bad treatment of volunteers.

He said the community station is taking an antireligious stance after a different Christian presenter, Elspeth Jackman, was dismissed.

She declined to make her show multi-faith and forwarded an email discussing the issue to her contacts.

On the Herts Ad Facebook page, Radio Verulam’s Good Morning St Albans presenter Kerry Cobb insisted: “Volunteers are treated with warmth, support and a professional grievance procedure, which Danny chose not to follow.”

She told Danny: “Maybe it was that you just didn’t get the answer you wanted and then chose to throw your toys out of your pram?”

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Jen Johnson added: “These days the God slot on any radio station must include all faiths. I’m an atheist/humanist and it seems perfectly reasonable and fair to me that the spiritual section should include everyone.”

Business consultant at Success Matters, Claire Boyles, said: “No mention in the article that if the Sunday show did not mention other faiths and religions they would lose their broadcasting licence, because it does not reflect the whole community.

“Regulations are not decided on by the directors.”

The original article clearly set out OFCOM rules over religious content, such as broadcasters must not exploit the audience, or be abusive.

This newspaper has also been contacted by other members of the community who were outraged by the story.

Former BBC journalist Bill Hamilton said: “I was shocked to read that Radio Verulam had dispensed with the services of Elspeth Jackman after her outstanding and entirely voluntary service as a presenter of Christian-based programmes over the past 12 years.

“The greater shock however, is that the station has concluded that her show was in breach of OFCOM guidelines and should be replaced by a multi-faith show.

“This is clearly a further erosion of Christian principles and this in a city which is the very cradle of Christianity in this country.

“Of course, Radio Verulam are within their rights to promote an all-faiths programme but that should not preclude a Christian-centred hour’s show which can still run independently.

“After all, if you’re doing a show on football, you won’t include other sports; if you’re doing a show on sheep farming, you won’t expect to hear about bee-keeping or soil cultivation; if you’re presenting a programme on jazz, listeners would be annoyed and frustrated to hear the latest songs from the pop charts.”

He urged Churches Together in St Albans to “let their voice be heard” in challenging the station’s decisions.