31/00 24 February 2000

 

 

RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES ASSESSMENT OF AWARD OF RE-ADVERTISED LOCAL LICENCE FOR CEREDIGION

The Radio Authority has today (24 February) published the details of the Ceredigion licence award made to Radio Ceredigion 2000 Cyf. The licence was awarded on 10 February 2000.

A copy of the full assessment is attached.

ENDS

NOTE TO EDITORS

The Radio Authority is responsible for licensing and regulating Independent Radio in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. It plans frequencies, awards licences, regulates programming and advertising, and plays an active role in the discussion and formulation of policies which affect the Independent Radio industry and its listeners.

 

RE-ADVERTISED LOCAL LICENCE AWARD: 

ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY

RADIO CEREDIGION 2000 CYF

Applications were invited on 6 August 1999. By the closing date of 9 November 1999, two applications were received, from:

Radio Ceredigion 2000 Cyf.

Champion Ceredigion (The Marcher Radio Group Ltd.).

The licence was awarded to Radio Ceredigion 2000 Cyf on 10 February 2000, to run for a period of eight years from 14 December 2000.

Assessment of the winning application

The existing licensee, Radio Ceredigion, is constituted as a company limited by guarantee, with its board of directors elected by a local membership. For the purposes of this application, the group is in the process of reconstituting itself as a new company limited by shares, in which North Wales Newspapers Ltd (through its subsidiary, Radio NGAC Ltd) intends to take a 70% controlling interest. The Authority Members considered that this substantial new investment would rectify the substantial funding shortfalls in the current operation. This new investment permitted the Authority to conclude that, under section 105(a) of the Broadcasting Act 1990, Radio Ceredigion should be able to maintain its service throughout the new licence period.

Radio Ceredigion’s programming is very individual in character; there is a broad and eclectic music policy and a far greater proportion of speech, over half of which is broadcast in Welsh, than is usual in conventional ILR stations. Despite the amount of speech output, Members were disappointed at the lack of resources devoted to the station’s news provision, and especially at the absence of news at weekends, and hoped that this could be improved upon. Members did, however, recognise that Radio Ceredigion is providing a unique service which reflects the distinctive character of the local community, not least through its reliance on a large pool of volunteers for the delivery of much of its programming.

This use of volunteers no doubt contributes to Radio Ceredigion’s substantial support from the community it serves, including endorsement from local politicians and public authorities. The audience research commissioned by the group indicated that the existing service has a significant reach, especially among Welsh speakers, and is succeeding in attracting listeners from across a wide age-range. It perhaps does not serve non-Welsh speakers as well.

Background to award

The existing licence, held by Radio Ceredigion Cyf, expires on 13 December 2000. As announced on 13 May 1999, the Authority decided that because of the licensee’s unsatisfactory record of compliance with its licence conditions, the licence should be fully re-advertised without implementation of the ‘special application procedure’ which would otherwise potentially allow the possibility of so-called ‘fast-track’ re-licensing of the existing operator. The Authority requires its licensees to follow the proper disciplines which alone make possible effective ‘light touch’ regulation.

In line with the Authority’s published policy the licence was therefore fully re-advertised. When licensing independent radio services, it is the duty of the Authority under the Broadcasting Act 1990 ("the Act") to do all that it can to secure the provision within the UK of a range and diversity of local services (section 85(2)(b) of the Act). Furthermore, under section 85(3) of the Act the Authority must discharge its functions in the manner which it considers is best calculated to:

(a) facilitate the provision of licensed services which (taken as a whole) are of high quality and offer a wide range of programmes calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests; and

(b) ensure fair and effective competition in the provision of such services and services connected with them.

Under section 105 of the Act, the matters to which the Authority shall have regard when determining whether, or to whom, to grant a local licence are:

(a) the ability of each applicant to maintain the proposed service throughout the licence period;

(b) the extent to which the proposed service would cater for the tastes and interests of persons living in the area or locality for which the service would be provided, and, where it is proposed to cater for any particular tastes and interests of such persons, the extent to which the service would so cater;

(c) the extent to which the proposed service would broaden the range of programmes available by way of local services to persons living in the relevant area or locality, and, in particular, the extent to which the service would cater for tastes and interest which are different from those already catered for by existing local services in the area; and

(d) the extent to which any application is supported by persons living in that area.

While the requirements of sections 85 and 105 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 will invariably form the basis of all awards and contested re-awards, each licence award will be made on an individual basis, with regard to the factors which, in the view of the Authority, are particularly relevant to that case.

When it advertised the availability of the local licence the Authority invited public comment on the local radio needs of listeners in the area, and the type of programme service required. Copies of the non-confidential sections of the applications were made available for public inspection in the main public libraries in Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Lampeter and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 9 November 1999 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

Both applications have been considered carefully by the Authority in accordance with the Act, and as against the advertised criteria set out in the Authority’s Notes of Guidance for Local Licence Applicants (Re-advertised Licences) and the coverage brief for this licence, issued at the date of the licence re-advertisement. The applicants were invited to respond to written questions on programming, audience and support, and finance. Telephone interviews were conducted on the composition and history of the applicant groups.