24 April 2001
Radio Authority publishes assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for Aberdeen
The Radio Authority has today (24 April) published details of its assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for Aberdeen. The Authority awarded the licence to Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd. on 5 April 2001.
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 Aberdeen was awarded to Switchdigital (Scotland) Ltd. on Thursday 5 April 2001, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.
Applications were invited on 20 October 2000. By the closing date of 13 February 2001, two applications were received, from:
Consideration of the successful application
The extent of coverage proposed by Switchdigital (Scotland) at the outset of transmissions was, by a large margin, the greater of the two applicants, and even after both applicants’ transmission networks would have been completed, Switchdigital’s coverage remained more extensive, especially within inland parts of Aberdeenshire. Switchdigital also offered a considerably more rapid timetable for the roll-out of coverage, with all its transmitters established from the commencement of the licence period. Members were satisfied that Switchdigital’s technical proposals were compliant with the requirements of the Authority’s coverage brief. Switchdigital is aiming to launch all of its services in December 2001, subject to frequency clearance, using three proposed transmission sites, at Durris, Meldrum and Mormond Hill. These will provide ‘outdoor coverage’ of more than 90% of the adult (age 15+) population of the ‘primary protected area’ (PPA). Members welcomed the fact that the coverage timetable enabled a higher proportion of residents in the coverage area to obtain digital radio broadcasts from the commencement of the service.
The Authority recognised that both groups would have no difficulty in establishing and maintaining their services. Both are backed by established commercial radio operators with adequate resources. They also both have an existing interest in Scotland as digital multiplex operators. In the Authority’s view both of the proposed services would be securely funded, and both of the applicants had credible business plans.
The Authority Members considered that Switchdigital’s proposals were notably the stronger in terms of this criterion, both as regards the number of services being offered and their range of appeal. The commercial programme services proposed by the successful applicant are as follows:
At the time of application, Switchdigital (Scotland) notified the Authority of its intention to offer digital accommodation to the existing Aberdeen ILR services, Northsound 1 and 2, and it has now confirmed publicly that discussions are under way. With the two smaller ILR stations in Aberdeenshire – NECR (Inverurie) and Waves Radio (Peterhead) – also to be carried, Switchdigital plans to provide digital ‘simulcasts’ of all four of the existing local services. The Members particularly welcomed the fact that the digital multiplex operator intended to cater for the listeners to all these stations.
Members also considered that Switchdigital’s proposals would provide services of appeal to listeners with a variety of tastes in music across the full demographic range. In particular, through the definite inclusion of a dance music channel (Ministry of Sound), Switchdigital had been the only applicant specifically offering a stream of programming which was primarily attractive to younger listeners, as well as offering services of appeal to those in other parts of the age-range.
This statutory criterion requires the Authority to judge applicants’ programming packages against existing local digital sound programme services. As there is no other local digital multiplex covering this area, this criterion is effectively satisfied by default.
Letters of support for both applications tended to welcome the potential availability of existing services in digital quality, rather than to express support for multiplex proposals as a whole. Switchdigital (Scotland) had promoted its application through local advertisements, and a briefing session led by the group’s chairman held in Aberdeen. However, it had mainly concentrated on audience research to demonstrate local demand for its proposals; Switchdigital’s application had provided convincing evidence of research support for its package of proposals.
6. Fair and effective competition
The Authority has been given no reason to believe that the applicants did not each act 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.
Copies of the non-confidential section of the applications were made available for public inspection in Aberdeen Central Library (reference section), and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 13 February 2001 inviting public comments on the applications.
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:
(e) the extent to which any proposed digital sound programme services would broaden the range of programmes available by way of local digital programme services in that area and, in particular, the extent to which they would cater for tastes and interests different from those already catered for by local digital programme services already provided in that area;
The Authority is also required to take account of any representations made in respect of the applications.
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