56/00 20 April 2000

RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES SOUTH WALES REGIONAL LICENCE AWARD ASSESSMENT AND CROSS-MEDIA PUBLIC INTEREST TEST DETERMINATION

The Radio Authority has today (20 April) published the details of the South Wales regional licence award made to Real Radio, along with its cross-media public interest determination. The Authority awarded the licence on 6 April 2000.

A copy of the full assessment and determination 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: SOUTH WALES REGION

ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY REAL RADIO

Applications were invited in August 1999. By the closing date of 23 November 1999, seven applications were received, as follows:

105 The Flame (The Wireless Group Ltd.)

Jazz FM South Wales Ltd.

the.living.radio.ltd

Nation 105 FM (South Wales Regional Radio Ltd)

Real Radio Ltd.

The Rox – Wales 105 (The Radio Corporation Ltd.)

Vision 105 FM (S.W. Radio Ltd.)

The licence was awarded to Real Radio Ltd on 6 April 2000, to run for eight years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the winning application

The Authority decided to award this licence to Real Radio Ltd, owned by the Guardian Media Group, from among a large field of candidates, proposing a wide range of services. In Members’ view, Real Radio offered a well-resourced, professional, full-service station, which would make a significant contribution to the South Wales community by providing a forum for debating Welsh public affairs on commercial radio. The proposed management of Real Radio has extensive experience of their specified format in other parts of the UK.

Real Radio’s service is designed to appeal to a broad range of people (25-54 year olds), with a slant towards the older end of that audience. A minimum of 30% of the programme output will consist of speech items, including a daily current affairs programme, ‘Wales Today’, phone-ins covering sport and business and a daily soap opera. Whilst the speech output of the station is intended to be in English, Members were pleased to note that the presenters will be Welsh-speaking, and that Welsh-speaking callers to the station would be encouraged. News provision is a cornerstone of the proposed service. A team of six journalists will compile live news bulletins during the daytime, including a fifteen minute news round up at five o’clock. In addition, IRN will provide tailor-made news bulletins to include regional news, a unique arrangement which was strongly welcomed by Members. The proposed music output differs from other music formats available in the area, and consists of a broad mix of melodic hits spanning the last forty years taken from a wide variety of genres. Members accepted the applicant’s assumptions that one of its main competitors for audience in the market would be BBC Radio Wales. The Authority considered the plans for the station to be well resourced and that the demands of the programme output could be met by the proposed number of staff.

Local support was established by Real Radio through a series of presentations to local businesses and members of the public, which also helped to raise the group’s profile. The application included evidence of a significant amount of ‘exclusive’ support for the group. In addition, Real Radio commissioned research which demonstrated that its target audience group was one of the least well-served segments of the population, and that within this group, a mixed speech and music format would prove popular.

Cross-media public interest test determination

Real Radio Ltd is owned by the Guardian Media Group, the publishers of national newspapers The Guardian and The Observer. Under the Broadcasting Act 1996, a national newspaper proprietor cannot hold a local or regional radio licence, unless the Radio Authority determines that the holding is not against the public interest. To look at this matter, the Radio Authority conducted a cross-media public interest test separately from its consideration of the Real Radio application. The public consultation element of the public interest test yielded no relevant concerns. After examining the issues, the Authority found that plurality and diversity would not be reduced if GMG were to hold the licence, no specific economic benefits were identified which would arise from the holding, and there were no implications for the proper operation of the market. Therefore the Radio Authority was able to make a positive public interest determination.

Background

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, 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 South Wales regional 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 the Central Libraries in Cardiff (local studies department) Newport (information department) and Swansea (reference library) and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 23 November 1999 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

All seven 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 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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