Birmingham based community radio station, Raaj FM was plunged into new controversy after a show on Asian television channel, MATV alleged a number of mishaps against it.
MATV alleged impropriety, inappropriate conduct, lack of fulfillment of key commitments and nonpayment of wages and also misuse of council property.
In Monday۪s ‘Live with Harjap’ programme shown on MATV on Monday 27th June, presenter Harjap Singh Bhangal, a popular UK immigration solicitor, along with Board Management members of Raaj FM, made several key allegations on the show.
The allegations were supported by documentary evidence which has been passed onto BizAsia.co.uk.
The main allegations are that contrary to the lease Raaj FM is subletting their premises to other businesses. According to Raaj FM۪s lease with Sandwell Council one of the terms is that Raaj FM cannot sublet their premises “in whole or in part”.
However, it is well known that three other businesses have been operating from the premises. A law firm has an office there and regularly advertises its offices at the building on Raaj FM and also in the Des Pardes and Panjab Times newspapers.
Another accident claims management company is also based there and up until a few months ago a property maintenance firm was also based there. It may well be that the businesses are unaware of this restriction.
When we contacted Sandwell Council they said they were unaware of this and that an immediate investigation will be started into the matter.
Another serious allegation made on the show was that there is unrest amongst the Raaj FM presenters as they have not been paid for over two years despite being promised to do so. The Board Management members confirmed that in a meeting in March 2010 the management promised to pay presenters within 4-5 months. However up until now this has not happened. This has also been confirmed by a leaked memo seen by BizAsia.co.uk in which the presenters have demanded two years wages and have threatened to quit and seek legal advice.
Although community Radio stations are not duty bound to pay employees they are supposed to train them and rotate them once trained. However some presenters have been at Raaj FM for over two years under the guise of being trained.
The Management Board members confirmed that no Board meeting had been held regarding the forthcoming Raaj FM Mela nor had they been consulted on the issue.
The Management Board also expressed concern over the income and funding of Raaj FM by stating that currently between 35 and 50 adverts play on Raaj FM on a daily basis. We confirmed with existing advertisers who confirmed they were being charged between 680-800 (excl VAT) per month for adverts. Accordingly an approximate monthly income of over 25,000 is generated by advertising by Raaj FM. However no presenters are paid salaries. In addition to this Raaj FM۪s salaried staff consist of the Director, Gajjan Singh۪s immediate family.
According to Ofcom Community Radio Licence regulations, not more than 50% of a station۪s income can be generated through advertising.
Ofcom states non for profit “means any profits generated by the community radio station cannot be given to shareholders for example, or to benefit the people running the service. However, this requirement does not prevent stations from paying staff. Any profit or surplus must be used for securing or improving the future provision of the radio service or for delivering social gain/community benefits to the station۪s target community.”
“Most stations can carry advertising and sponsorship, although at least half the station۪s income must come from other areas. A small number of community stations where they overlap with small commercial services may not carry advertising and sponsorship.”
Accordingly it figures that if Raaj FM is raising 25,000 plus per month from advertising it۪s overall monthly declared income should be over 50,000.
The final allegation made was a failure to act upon the key commitments made by Raaj FM when it was awarded its radio licence by Ofcom. Raaj FM stated that all Board Management members would be elected, but the three members on the show, Ravinder Singh Powar, Paramjeet Singh and Iqbal Singh Padda confirmed that no such elections had been held. This further enforces the point made on the show that this is a station run solely by one family for their own interests as opposed to the community۪s. They also stated they knew nothing of an independent evaluator which Raaj FM said they would appoint. Further Raaj FM has allegedly failed to start a Listeners Club as promised to gather feedback from its listeners nor has it distributed any survey questionnaires as promised.
Further another allegation has been made that Raaj FM was recently awarded a grant of over 15,000 in order to employ a part time “sustainability manager” but that in effect there was no such manager and that this money had been used to employ yet another family member.
Raaj FM is to hold a mela on Sunday 3rd July 2011 to which Star TV is a media partner, however there have now been anonymous letters in Punjabi being circulated in the West Midlands questioning the motives of this mela and suggesting this mela will incite religious tensions. When contacted Star TV, it was unaware of the Raaj FM allegations.
BizAsia.co.uk spoke to Gajjan Singh at Raaj FM last night and said was busy with preparations for this weekend’s mela. He also said he hadn’t seen the MATV show and that he would be in touch by 15:00 today with comments but were still awaiting his response at the time of filing this article.
At the end of the MATV show Harjap openly invited Raaj FM۪s sole Director onto the show next week to answer these allegations.