Well-known St Albans DJ stops broadcasting with Radio Verulam amid controversy
PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:12 14 February 2019
A well-known Radio Verulam DJ will no longer host his long-standing weekday show amid a row over religious content.
Danny Smith, who has hosted West Herts Drivetime for almost nine years, has made a stand in support of fellow presenter Elspeth Jackman.
Elspeth has been embroiled in controversy over her Christian show Elspeth’s Afternoon, which has aired every Sunday for 12 years.
Bosses at the community station told her from now on, she must not only speak about Christianity, but incorporate other faiths too.
Section four of the OFCOM guidelines - entitled Religion - states that religious broadcasters must be responsible and not exploit any susceptibilities of the audience, be abusive, or seek recruits.
After forwarding an email exchange about the issue to some of her church contacts as part of a request for prayers, Elspeth was told she was no longer welcome as a volunteer at the station.
Now Danny has thrown his backing behind Elspeth by withdrawing his services as a presenter until the situation is resolved.
After a short conversation with Radio Verulam chairman Nick Hazell, Danny said he believes the station’s directors are not changing their decision about Elspeth and so he does not expect to return.
He explained: “I am sad to think that I will no longer be serving this community that I love, I see it as a tremendous privilege to be broadcasting to this community, but I believe that St Albans deserves a first class community radio station and that Radio Verulam is no longer delivering that.
“I believe that the station has been moving away from the community for a few years. It wants to be a commercial station and it seems that all community initiatives here are scaled back or got rid of in favour of things that make money.
“But the reality of a community station is not just to make money but to serve the community.”
Danny is taking a stand after working about 10,000 unpaid hours volunteering for the station. He believes Radio Verulam wanted to stop Elspeth’s Christian show because it is taking an anti-religious stance: “A community station should reflect its community and we do have a higher proportion of churches and church goers than other communities would have.
“Time and time again the station seems to think that this area is like any other, but the Brexit result only shows we are different and are unique.
“Elspeth is not the first person to be treated badly.”
Another Radio Verulam presenter, Alex McKay, is currently taking a hiatus from his show, The Music Lab.
He explained why he took a break: “I did not feel I was being supported as an individual or in my show. There are also other things, like the general structure of Radio Verulam.
“I thought they were moving away from being a community station. It seemed to me the focus was on getting more commercial revenue, and I understand that they need to do that to keep themselves afloat, but it got to a point where there is nothing that makes it stand out or unique.”
On Elspeth’s side, she has forgiven Radio Verulam, wishing to put the controversy behind her and move on: “I feel it was a big injustice but I will forgive [Radio Verulam] for it because that is what being a Christian is.
“I could have got everyone to write in and make a great big fuss but then I thought that was not the Christian way, so I took the path of forgiveness.
“It really felt like a bit of a bereavement, but now I have peace with it and forgiven them.”
Elspeth has produced the show for some time from a studio in her home.
She added: “[Danny’s actions have] amazed and humbled me. Danny sees much more of what goes on at Radio Verulam than I do, as he uses the studio there, and he has been more in touch with it than I have, and he has noticed the volunteers aren’t being treated very well.”
Danny said: “I felt shocked, in disbelief, and I felt really sad for Elspeth.
“I have stood by, while long term broadcasters have been treated badly, for too long, and I have seen the station become managed more and more by people outside our community and I don’t think it is right.”
He predicts Radio Verulam will struggle to find a volunteer willing to give up three hours every weekday to replace him.
Directors at Radio Verulam did not wish to comment on the situation, and refused to confirm what would happen to Danny’s position or the future of his show.