Monday, July 11, 2005

Probe into radio station with ‘Orange playlist’

Marc Horne:

POLICE are investigating Scotland’s first sectarian radio station, which broadcasts loyalist and anti-Catholic propaganda through an internet server in Jersey.

Detectives believe that Calton Radio — a 24-hour station that claims to have attracted 130,000 listeners since February — may be in breach of a new law banning incitement to religious hatred.

The station has an exclusively “Orange” playlist, including songs ridiculing the Pope and celebrating outlawed terrorist organisations.

Its official website features photographs of loyalist paramilitary murals honouring terror groups including the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Red Hand Commandos.

It offers downloadable computer wallpaper featuring armed men in balaclavas carrying guns and shoulder-held rocket launchers alongside the names of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commandos.

Visitors can click on an online link to watch graphic video footage of British Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes being brutally beaten and murdered by a republican mob in Belfast in March 1988.

It also features a “humour” section that refers to “Taigs” — a derogatory name for Catholics — and features a mocked-up photograph of Jack McConnell, the first minister, in a Celtic strip.

The station was originally launched as an offshoot of the Calton Protestant Defenders Lodge in Glasgow. Now it is run independently by a group of volunteer “loyalist DJs” there.

Listeners can interact with disc jockeys and request music through e-mail and the site’s chatroom, which boasts more than 4,600 registered members.

The station has been condemned by Nil By Mouth, the anti-sectarian pressure group, and by Donald Gorrie, the Liberal Democrat MSP who persuaded the Scottish executive to introduce the new offence of religious hatred.

The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 treats religiously motivated crimes as aggravated offences, leading to tougher sentences. Detective Chief Inspector Robert Hamilton, of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, said that the station could fall within the scope of the act. “We have been made aware of this radio station and will be making investigations,” he said.

Gorrie said: “The people behind this radio station appear to be attempting to import a lot of the culture of Northern Ireland to Scotland and that is something we can do without.

“I am glad that this matter has been drawn to the attention of the police.”

Sandra White, the Glasgow MSP who has campaigned for sectarian paraphernalia to be outlawed, added: “Some of the material that this radio station is broadcasting is extremely distasteful and I hope the police will take it off the air.”

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