55/00 20 April 2000
RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES ASSESSMENT OF LOCAL DIGITAL MULTIPLEX LICENCE AWARD FOR GREATER LONDON II
The Radio Authority has today (20 April) published the details of its assessment of the second local digital multiplex licence award for Greater London. The Authority awarded the licence to Switch Digital Ltd. on 6 April 2000.
A copy of the full assessment is attached.
LOCAL DIGITAL RADIO MULTIPLEX SERVICE
GREATER LONDON II ASSESSMENT OF LICENCE AWARD
The second local digital radio multiplex service licence for Greater London was awarded to Switch Digital Ltd. on 6 April 2000, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.
Applications were invited on 10 September 1999. By the closing date of 11 January 2000, three applications had been received, from:
Consideration of the successful application
Members were satisfied with Switch Digital’s technical proposals, which should provide robust coverage within its core transmission area. Switch Digital is aiming to launch its services in June 2000 from the Crystal Palace transmitter in order to complement the launch of the first digital multiplex operated by CE Digital. Nine further transmitters at Alexandra Palace, Bluebell Hill, Brookmans Park, Guildford, Hemel Hempstead, Northwood, Otford, Reigate and Zouches Farm will commence broadcasting from September 2000.
The Authority recognised that all three groups had adequate funding as they had been established by some of the radio industry’s most successful operators. However, the Authority was impressed by Switch Digital’s unique multiplex management proposals, and in particular its pro-active marketing plans which reflect the group’s positive approach to the concept of DAB. Rather than relying on analogue on-air promotions by its service providers who are existing Authority licensees, Switch Digital intends to encourage actively the uptake of digital radio and will make use of its investors, Clear Channel and the Carphone Warehouse, to provide promotional opportunities. The Authority felt that this approach demonstrated the commitment Switch Digital had to establishing and maintaining its service in a competitive local marketplace. The fact that the majority of programme providers being carried on the multiplex are shareholders in the multiplex should provide security of longer-term income for the licensee.
The commercial programme services proposed by the applicant are as follows:
Classic Soul (Provider: Virgin Radio)
Adult Contemporary (Provider: to be confirmed)
Speech/Music (Provider: Wireless Group)
Classic Rock and Sport (Provider: Wireless Group)
Easy Listening (Provider: Clear Channel/Saga Radio)
Chart Hits and Club Dance (Ministry of Sound/Clear Channel)
Jazz, Soul and Blues (Jazz FM)
Traffic and Travel News (Provider: ITIS)
This statutory criterion requires the Authority to judge applicants’ programming packages against existing local digital sound programme services. This is the first time that such a comparison has been possible. The Authority has already stated that broadening range will not necessarily be best served by proposals for niche services only, and that some competition between popular programme formats may be beneficial to the listener. In this regard, the Authority must consider the requirements of section 51(2)(e) of the 1996 Act – to consider the extent to which the proposed programme services would broaden digital choice – in the light of its duties under section 85(3)(b) of the 1990 Act – to ensure fair and effective competition in the provision of services. The Authority recognises that fair and effective competition can involve competition between services with a same or similar format, as well as competition between different types of services. Finding the balance between these is not easy, and will be decided by the Authority on a case-by-case basis with regard to the entire package presented by applicants. In this case, Members were satisfied that Switch Digital will offer listeners a bouquet of services that will provide competition both between and within formats, compared to the digital services to be provided by CE Digital on the first London multiplex. Digital choice in London will be broadened both by the provision of alternative services in popular existing formats (adult contemporary and dance), and by a range of new formats.
The Authority has no reason to believe that the applicant has not acted in a manner calculated to ensure fair and effective competition when contracting or offering to contract with potential or proposed service providers. In accordance with the licence conditions pursuant to the Broadcasting Act 1996, the Authority will keep matters of fair and effective competition and undue discrimination under regular review.
Copies of the non-confidential section of the applications were made available for public inspection at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 11 January 2000 inviting public comments on the applications.
Under the terms of section 51(2) Broadcasting Act 1996, when considering whether, or to whom, to award a local digital radio multiplex licence, the Authority must have regard to the following specific matters:
The Authority is also required to take account of any representations made in respect of the applications.