32/00 24 February 2000

 

RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES ASSESSMENT OF HERTFORD LICENCE AWARD

The Radio Authority has today (24 February) published the details of the Hertford licence award made to HertBeat FM. The Authority made the award on 10 February.

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.

 

LOCAL LICENCE AWARD: HERTFORD

ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY HERTBEAT FM

Applications were invited on 4 June 1999. By the closing date of 5 October 1999, two applications were received, as follows:

HertBeat FM (Radio Hertford (Commercial) Ltd.)

Stag FM Ltd.

The licence was awarded to HertBeat FM on 10 February 2000, to run for eight years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Existing commercial radio provision

The proximity of the licence area to London means that there are already a large number of radio services available to local listeners. The southern part of the licence area including Hertford, Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City falls within the measured coverage area of all the Greater London AM services except Ritz 1035AM. The London-wide FM stations are audible throughout most of the licence area. The GWR-owned services for Luton and Bedford - Chiltern FM and Classic Gold - cover Stevenage, whilst the Harlow service Ten-17 FM (owned by Essex Radio) is audible in Hertford and Ware.

Assessment of the winning application

Members responded positively to the commitment that the successful applicant had demonstrated in its pursuit of a local independent radio licence for Hertford. HertBeat FM had lobbied the Radio Authority since 1991, and in 1998 became the first and only group to undertake a trial broadcast in the area. By the time it submitted its application the group had built-up considerable and unrivalled support among all sectors of the local community and its elected representatives.

Members were impressed by the level of local knowledge that HertBeat FM had applied to its proposals. The group conducted a most thorough research study, and used the findings from this, together with feedback from its trial broadcast, to produce programme proposals which Members considered would be likely to cater for the tastes and interests of local listeners. In addition, HertBeat FMís focus on locally orientated speech content should broaden listener choice in an area where a large number of commercial radio services are already available. The involvement of two local newspaper groups had also enabled HertBeat FM to resource a substantial news facility, including the provision of local news at weekends.

Members recognised the potential difficulties that a stand-alone service could face in relation to section 105(a) of the Act, but were of the view that HertBeat FM was well placed to overcome them. The groupís main investor has demonstrated a long-term commitment to local radio, and members of the proposed management team have had previous involvement in small-scale radio. In addition, the group has unrivalled knowledge of the local marketplace and can already boast a considerable level of support among potential listeners and advertisers.

Background to award

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;

    1. 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 interests 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, 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 Hertford local licence the Authority invited public comment on the local radio needs of listeners in this area, and the type of programme service required. Copies of the non-confidential sections of the applications were made available for public inspection in public libraries in Hertford, Hatfield, Welwyn Garden City, and Stevenage and at the Authorityís offices in London. A notice was issued on 5 October 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 Authorityís Notes of Guidance for Local Licence Applicants and the coverage brief for this licence, issued at the date of the licence 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.

 

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