27/01

1 March 2001

 

Radio Authority publishes assessment of Kendal and Windermere licence award and radio specific public interest test determination

 

The Radio Authority has today (1 March) published the details of the Kendal and Windermere licence award, along with its positive radio-specific public interest test determination. The licence was conditionally awarded to Mint FM on 8 February 2001.

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.

 

Contact: Press enquiries:

Julie McCatty, Chief Press Officer: 020 7887 4292

Kerry Curtis, Press & Information Officer: 020 7887 4290

Out of hours: 07770 375283

General enquiries:

Press and Information Office: 020 7887 4294 or 020 7405 7058

 

 

 

 

 

 

LOCAL LICENCE AWARD: KENDAL AND WINDERMERE

ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION

AND PUBLIC INTEREST TEST BY MINT FM

 

Introduction

Applications for a new FM licence covering the Kendal and Windermere area ("the Kendal and Windermere Licence") were invited on 16 June 2000. By the closing date of 3 October 2000, two applications were received, as follows:

Lakes FM (Carlisle Radio Ltd.)

Mint FM (Westmorland Radio Ltd.)

The Authority assessed each application in detail, after which it determined that the relevant criteria of the Broadcasting Act were best fulfilled by the Westmorland application. Westmorland Radio Ltd subsequently agreed to make certain undertakings to the Authority, which enabled a positive public interest determination to be made. The Kendal and Windermere Licence has therefore been awarded to Westmorland's Mint FM, on condition that it adheres to the undertakings set out below. The licence will run for eight years from the date on which the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the winning application

Mint FM is proposing a stand-alone, ‘full-service’ station for Kendal and Windermere. As mentioned above, Mint FM will be operated by Westmorland Radio Ltd, a company whose controlling shareholder is CN Group Ltd., owner of The Bay radio station based in Morecambe Bay. The remaining shares are held by twelve local investors, seven of whom are on the board, offering a combination of both local focus and relevant radio expertise.

Members considered that the application put forward clear and focused proposals for the programming output of the station which were justified by the group's audience research. Nearly all of Mint FM’s programming will be locally produced and presented. The music output is described as a ‘broad mix of music from the last forty years’ with an emphasis on more melodic tracks designed to attract a target audience of 25-54 year olds. Members appreciated the wide range of locally relevant speech elements contained in Mint FM’s proposals. Features will include regular tourist information bulletins and a speech intensive local weekday evening magazine programme. Mint FM intends to provide 2-3 minutes of locally produced news following IRN's hourly national news bulletins between 0700 and 1800 during the week, with additional half-hourly headlines at peak times.

In Members' view, the applicant has developed a coherent staffing plan designed to deliver its programming proposals effectively. The stand-alone nature of the service which Mint FM proposes will require investment in human resources, something which is catered for in the company's business plan. Mint FM proposes a staff of nine, of which two will be part-time freelance presenters. Additional support will be offered by The Bay, which will carry out commercial production and accounting functions. Mint FM has made a commitment to training which includes an agreement with Westmorland Hospital Radio. It also plans to offer supervised work experience to students on the broadcast journalism course at the University of Central Lancashire.

Procedure

When it advertised the availability of the Kendal and Windermere 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 Kendal and Windermere libraries and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 3 October 2000 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

Both of the applications have been considered carefully by the Authority in accordance with the Broadcasting 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.

Criteria relating to the award of licences to provide ILR services

The Authority has a duty 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 interests 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 Act 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.

Public interest determination

Westmorland Radio Limited ("Westmorland") is controlled by CN Group Limited, which also controls The Bay FM, which broadcasts in the area covered by the Kendal and Windermere Licence. As a result, it was necessary to determine whether the holding of the Kendal and Windermere Licence by Westmorland could be expected to operate against the public interest in accordance with paragraph 12 of Part III of Schedule 2 to the Broadcasting Act 1990.

The public interest determination is carried out entirely separately from the consideration of the licence award. Before reaching its determination, the Authority took into account all the circumstances and in particular considered the following matters:

(a) any reduction in plurality of ownership of local radio services within the area concerned that would result from a decision to allow the licences to be held together, and

(b) the likely effect of such a decision on -

(i) the range of programmes available by way of independent radio services to persons living in the area concerned, and

(ii) diversity in the sources of information available to the public in the area concerned and in the opinions expressed on local radio services received in that area.

The Authority took into account the submission provided by Westmorland and the views expressed by interested parties through its public consultation exercise. After examining the issues, the Authority came to the following conclusions:

  1. plurality of ownership in the Kendal and Windermere area would not be reduced if Westmorland's Mint FM were to hold the licence because the public interest test was in relation to a new licence award, rather than an acquisition;
  2. the range of programming available by way of independent local radio ("ILR") in the area concerned was considered as part of the licence award under section 105(c) of the Act. However, the Authority was satisfied that the programming proposals put forward by Mint FM, and in particular the commitment to provide a stand-alone service distinct from The Bay, would broaden the range of programming available; and
  3. Members considered that an award to Mint FM would provide a considerable increase in the opportunities for local people to hear local news which was subject to local editorial control as well as additional opportunities to express their opinions on radio, thus increasing diversity in the opinions expressed on local radio services received in the area. In order to address issues relating to diversity in the sources of information and opinions expressed, Westmorland gave assurances to the Authority which enabled a positive public interest determination to be made. These assurances will be reflected in the provisions of the Mint FM licence held by Westmorland. The assurances are as follows:

  1. that Westmorland ensures the maintenance of separate news facilities and local editorial control within Mint FM’s licence area;
  2. that there should be local news bulletins of 2-3 minutes duration broadcast from Mint FM’s studios hourly from 0700 to 1800 on weekdays, hourly from 0700 to 1300 on Saturdays, and from 0800 to 1300 on Sundays.
  3. that the following items of local information should be included in Mint FM’s ‘promise of performance’: travel and traffic; tourist information; weather; review of day’s newspapers; sport and recreation; film reviews and video previews; theatre; arts and entertainment billboard; community action; charity helpline; employment action; crime file/crimestoppers; and the Mint FM evening magazine programme.

When considering the public interest implications of an award to Westmorland, the Authority had regard to its obligations to carry out its functions in a manner which it considers is best calculated to ensure fair and effective competition in the provision of independent radio services and services connected with them. In this context, matters considered by the Authority included the effect on the advertising market of an award to Westmorland in the context of CN Group Ltd.'s control of The Bay, a service which overlaps the Kendal/Windermere market. It was the Authority's view that, due to the alternative outlets for advertisers offered by print and display media in the area, and notably, the strong position of the Westmorland Gazette in that market, there was insufficient evidence to presume that an award to Mint FM could be expected to operate against the public interest. Westmorland also gave assurances to be reflected in the provisions of Mint FM's licence that no advertising on Mint FM or The Bay would be sold on condition of advertising being placed on the other station, or any other CN Group Ltd. station.

Having had regard to all of the circumstances, the Authority determined that an acquisition by Westmorland could not be expected to operate against the public interest.

 

 

Contact:
Press enquiries: 
Julie McCatty, Chief Press Officer: 020 7887 4292
Kerry Curtis, Press & Information Officer: 020 7887 4290
Out of hours 07770 375283

General enquiries:
Press and Information Office: 020 7887 4294 or 020 7405 7058

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