22 September 2000
RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES ASSESSMENT OF LOCAL DIGITAL MULTIPLEX LICENCE AWARD FOR CENTRAL LANCASHIRE
The Radio Authority has today (22 September) published details of the Central Lancashire local digital multiplex licence award made to Emap Digital Radio Ltd. The Authority awarded the licence on 7 September 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.
LOCAL DIGITAL RADIO MULTIPLEX SERVICE:
ASSESSMENT OF LICENCE AWARD
The local digital radio multiplex service licence for Central Lancashire was awarded to Emap Digital Radio Ltd. on Thursday 7 September 2000, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.
Consideration of the application
The licence was offered to Emap Digital Radio Ltd. on the understanding that the proposed launch date of the service is September 2001. Emap will be using two transmitters at Winter Hill and Pendle Forest to provide ‘outdoor coverage’ to 82% of the adult (aged 15+) population of the ‘primary protected area’ (PPA), according to its own estimates. Emap will consider the addition of a further transmitter at Blackpool Tower when the household penetration of digital receivers reaches 33%. This would increase ‘outdoor coverage’ to an estimated 89% of the PPA.
Emap is one of the main operators in UK commercial radio and has already been involved in eight previous successful applications for local digital multiplex licences, both in its own right and in association with Capital Radio. It has the necessary funding to establish the service, and Members considered that its sources of income were secure enough to maintain it.
The commercial programme services proposed by the applicant are as follows:
Contemporary Hit Radio 97.4 Rock FM (provider: Emap Performance Ltd.)
Easy Listening Magic 999 (provider: Emap Performance Ltd.)
Dance Kiss (provider: Emap Performance Ltd.)
Gold Classic Gold (provider: GWR Digital Ltd.)
Full Service 96.5 The Wave (provider: The Wireless Group plc)
Modern Rock Xfm (provider: Capital Radio plc)
Adult Contemporary Programme provider: to be decided
Three of the proposed services - 97.4 Rock FM, Magic 999 and 96.5 The Wave - are simulcasts of existing local radio services. Both Capital for Xfm and Emap for Kiss have committed to provide local news and travel information at breakfast time, when the level of household penetration reaches one-third of all homes in Central Lancashire. GWR’s Classic Gold service will be a relay of the existing analogue service and, as in other areas, will contain four hours of local programming from day one. In respect of the as yet unsourced ‘adult contemporary’ service, Emap has also confirmed that the amount of local content will be one of the factors considered when deciding who will provide the service. Members are aware that there is no explicit obligation for local digital multiplex licensees to provide localised services. However, section 85(3)(a) of the 1990 Broadcasting Act gives the Radio Authority an overarching statutory obligation to ensure the provision of licensed services of ‘high quality’, and Members view local content as forming an essential element of quality. Although content with the range of programme services on offer, Members considered Emap's interpretation of the results of its audience research to be unconvincing as it appeared to justify, rather than to inform, its choice of particular programme formats.
As there are no local digital programme services available in the Central Lancashire area, and as this was the sole application, this criterion was effectively satisfied by default.
In order to fulfil this criterion Emap Digital Radio Ltd. chose to elicit support letters from selected local representatives. Fifty-three letters of support, including four from local MP’s, accompanied the application.
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.
Applications for this licence were invited on 22 February 2000. By the closing date of 20 June 2000, one application had been received, from Emap Digital Radio Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Emap Performance Ltd.
Copies of the non-confidential section of the application were made available for public inspection in Blackburn Central Library, the Harris Library in Preston, Blackpool Central Library and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 20 June 2000 inviting public comments on the application. Under the terms of section 51(2) of the 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 application.