17 October 2000
RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES ASSESSMENT OF THE LOCAL DIGITAL MULTIPLEX LICENCE AWARD FOR CENTRAL SCOTLAND
The Radio Authority has today (17 October) published the details of its assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for Central Scotland. The Authority awarded the licence to Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd. on 5 October 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:
CENTRAL SCOTLAND REGION
ASSESSMENT OF LICENCE AWARD
The local digital radio multiplex service licence for Central Scotland was awarded to Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd. on Thursday 5 October 2000, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.
Consideration of the application
Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd. proposes to commence its service in May 2001, using three transmission sites, at Kirk O’Shotts, Craigkelly and Gleniffer Braes, which it estimates will provide ‘outdoor coverage’ of some 83% of the adult population of the Central Scotland ‘primary protected area’ (PPA). It proposes to extend coverage in March 2003 by the addition of transmissions from Darvel and Earls Hill, increasing ‘outdoor coverage’ to an estimated 88% of the PPA population.
2. Ability to establish and maintain the service
Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd. is owned by The Wireless Group plc, Clear Channel International Ltd., Capital Radio plc and The Carphone Warehouse plc. The consortium includes three of the four equity participants involved in operating the second London multiplex, which is already broadcasting. The group is adopting the same basic approach in the business operation of the Central Scotland multiplex as it did in London, with the multiplex operator taking a central role in the marketing and promotion of the multiplex as a whole. The Authority had no doubt about Switchdigital (Scotland)’s ability to establish and maintain the service proposed in the application.
The commercial programme services proposed by the applicant are as follows:
Chart hits and club dance
Ministry of Sound
Classic hits WSCO (provider: Clear Channel Int. Ltd.)
Classic rock and sport
Big-Scotland (provider: The Wireless Group
Easy listening The Lounge (provider: The Wireless Group plc)
Jazz, soul and blues Jazz FM (provider: Jazz FM plc)
Adult contemporary and speech
Scot FM (provider: Central Scotland Radio
New rock and dance Beat 106 (provider: Beat 106 Ltd.)
Members were pleased to note the broad range of music-based formats proposed on this multiplex, most of which are new to Scottish listeners. However, the lack of local content on non-simulcast services was a source of some concern. Members hoped that in future, with the growth of audiences for digital services, service providers would produce more local speech elements aimed at Scottish listeners. Although there is no explicit statutory obligation for local digital multiplex licensees to provide localised services, 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.
4. Broadening the range of local digital programme services
The Authority considered the extent to which Switchdigital (Scotland)’s proposals would "broaden the range of programmes available" in relation to those being provided on the local multiplexes for Glasgow and Edinburgh. The fact that this was the sole application for the regional multiplex licence meant there was no role this time for the ‘broadening of choice’ criterion as a way of discriminating between applications. Nevertheless, Members’ view was that Switchdigital had succeeded in assembling a broad range of services covering much of the musical mainstream in a way that did not closely mirror the composition of existing multiplexes in Scotland.
5. Local support
Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd. demonstrated broad public support for the bouquet of services proposed by the use of RAJAR figures for the simulcast services, and through its own audience survey for services new to the audience. An appendix containing forty-six letters provided direct support for the application proposals.
6. Fair and effective competition
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 12 April 2000. By the closing date of 15 August 2000, one application had been received, from Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd., a company controlled by The Wireless Group plc.
Copies of the non-confidential section of the application were made available for public inspection in the Business Information Department of the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and the Scottish Library of Edinburgh Central Library, and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 15 August 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.