8 February 2001
Radio Authority publishes assessment of re-awarded local licence for High Wycombe
The Radio Authority has today (8 February) published the details of the High Wycombe local licence re-award made to Radio Wye Ltd., currently broadcasting as Eleven Seventy, which will re-launch as Swan FM for the new licence period. The Authority re-awarded the licence on 22 January 2001.
A copy of the full assessment is below.
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 LICENCE AWARD: HIGH WYCOMBE
ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY
RADIO WYE LTD
Applications were invited on 21 July 2000. By the closing date of 24 October 2000, one application was received, from:
Radio Wye Ltd., the existing licence holder.
The licence was re-awarded to Radio Wye Ltd., to run for a further period of eight years from 31 December 2001.
Assessment of the application
The Authority Members appreciated the thoroughness of the application for the re-award of its local licence submitted by Radio Wye Ltd., which currently broadcasts as Eleven Seventy on an AM frequency. The company had applied on the basis of transferring its service to the FM waveband as allowed in the licence re-advertisement, and proposed to adopt a new on-air identity of Swan FM to reflect this. The Members noted that the station had benefited from the access to centralised resources and expertise resulting from its acquisition last year by Radio Services Ltd, but they were pleased that continuity had been provided by the retention of many of the previous board members and management.
Members were pleased to note that, despite its limited staffing and financial resources, the station had always succeeded in maintaining a genuinely local character. As Swan FM, the station intends to uphold its current commitment to broadcast a minimum of 16 hours of locally produced and presented programming per day. The station will continue to provide a full service targeting 25-54 year olds primarily, but appealing to the entire age-range of listeners locally. The speech content will form at least 20% of the broadcast output and, as a result of audience research, it is proposed to extend news coverage, with a continuing emphasis on local news. Members thought that the station’s intention to maintain its specialist programming for the local Asian and African-Caribbean populations was to be commended.
The station provided evidence of strong local support. Twenty letters of support from local councillors and elected representatives accompanied the application. From the many endorsements from local organisations, businesses and individual members of the public, it was clear to Members that the station had established an impressive local reputation.
In Members’ view, the business plan put forward by Swan FM was slightly optimistic, although with the financial support of Radio Services Ltd as well as the potential for shared services and the input of extra expertise, they felt that the forecasts could be achievable.
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 for the High Wycombe area, held by Radio Wye Ltd. broadcasting as Eleven Seventy, expires on 30 December 2001. This service currently broadcasts on the AM (medium wave) band. However, the Authority’s engineers identified the possibility that the High Wycombe ILR service could be broadcast using two frequencies on the FM (VHF) waveband, albeit reaching a lower population, focusing on the towns of High Wycombe and Amersham. The Authority therefore re-advertised this licence for the provision of a service to be broadcast on either the FM or the AM waveband, but not both. Because a potential change of coverage and waveband would represent a substantial alteration to existing licence terms, the licence was – in line with the Authority’s published policy - fully re-advertised without implementation of the ‘special application procedure’, which would otherwise potentially allow the possibility of so-called ‘fast track’ re-licensing of the existing operator. When it re-advertised the High Wycombe 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 section of the application were made available for public inspection in the public libraries in High Wycombe (reference library) and Amersham, and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 24 October 2000 inviting public comments on the application. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.
The application was 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.
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