90/00 21 June 2000
RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES ASSESSMENT OF RE-AWARDED LOCAL LICENCE FOR MORECAMBE BAY
The Radio Authority has today (21 June) published the details of the Morecambe Bay local licence re-award made to The Bay. The Authority re-awarded the licence on 8 June 2000.
A copy of the full assessment is attached.
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: MORECAMBE BAY
ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY THE BAY
Applications were invited on 29 October 1999. By the closing date of 8 February 2000, five applications were received, from:
The Bay (Bay Radio Ltd., the existing licence holder)
BFM (Morecambe Bay Broadcasting Co. Ltd.)
Easy 96.9 FM (Hallco 339 Ltd.)
Mountain FM (Northern Radio Ltd.)
Radioworld (Soundeasy Ltd.)
The licence was awarded to The Bay, to run for a further period of eight years from 1 March 2001.
Assessment of the winning application
After satisfying a cross-media public interest test, The Bay was acquired by local media company CN Group in 1999. Its application for the re-award of the Morecambe Bay licence combines local market knowledge, a sound business plan and ample funding. Members felt that the extra resources available for sales, and the recent recruitment of new management staff with a proven track record in radio, would enhance The Bay’s performance in the new licence period and that it would be able to maintain its service effectively.
Members were satisfied that The Bay caters well for the tastes and interests of the local community, as demonstrated by its healthy audience figures. Recent RAJAR surveys indicate that The Bay is currently achieving its highest-ever levels of reach. The Bay intends to continue providing a broad range of popular music from the past 40 years and to maintain its commitment to a minimum speech content of 15% during daytime. These proposals were well supported by impressive audience research. Members were heartened by the station's recognition of a need to enhance its local news output, and by its efforts to address this. The Bay has appointed a new head of news, has increased the staffing of the newsroom to three journalists, and has taken steps to enhance its news-gathering arrangements. All in all, Members considered the programme proposals for the new licence period to be well judged and realistic.
The level of local support generated for The Bay’s re-application was considerable. One hundred and seventy-five letters from local councillors, charities and community organisations, businesses and individuals accompanied the application document.
Of the other applications, BFM offered credible competition for the licence award, but Members considered that the incumbent’s proposals were more convincing and would better cater for local tastes and interests.
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 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.
The existing licence, held by Bay Radio Ltd, broadcasting as The Bay, expires on 28 February 2001. The Authority asked for declarations of intent to apply for the licence in September 1999, under the provisions of the ‘special application procedure’ introduced in the 1996 Act which potentially allows the possibly of ‘fast track’ re-licensing of the existing operator. Three such declarations were received, in addition to the one submitted by the existing licence holder. In line with the Authority’s published policy the licence was therefore fully re-advertised. When it re-advertised the Morecambe Bay 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 Morecambe, Lancaster, Barrow-in-Furness and Kendal, and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 8 February 2000 inviting public comments on the applications.
All applications were 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.