23 July 2001
Radio Authority publishes assessment of South and West Yorkshire licence award
The Radio Authority has today (23 July) published its assessment of the South and West Yorkshire regional licence award made to Variety FM. The Authority made the licence award on 4 July 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 LICENCE AWARD: SOUTH AND WEST YORKSHIRE REGION
ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY VARIETY FM
Applications were invited in October 2000. By the closing date of 6 February 2001, sixteen applications were received, as follows:
The Arrow (Chrysalis Radio (Yorkshire) Ltd.)
Century Yorkshire Ltd.
Déjà vu Radio (Oldies Radio (Yorkshire) Ltd.)
Flair FM (White Rose Radio Ltd.)
Flix Radio (Yorkshire) Ltd.
Forever 106 (Forever Broadcasting (Yorkshire) Ltd.)
Jazz FM Yorkshire Ltd.
Nova 106 (Yorkshire Radio Enterprises Ltd.)
106.2 The Rose (White Rose Regional Radio Ltd.)
Route FM (Yorkshire Sound Ltd.)
Saga Radio Ltd.
Sunrise Radio (Yorkshire) (Bradford City Radio Ltd.)
Variety FM (Radio Variety Ltd.)
Y107 (Yorkshire Regional Radio Ltd.)
Y- Radio (SMG Regional Radio Ltd.)
Yorkshire FM Radio Ltd.
The licence was awarded to Variety FM, to run for eight years from the date the service commences broadcasting.
Assessment of the winning application
The Authority decided to award this licence to Variety Radio Ltd, owned by the Guardian Media Group, from among a very large field of candidates with competitive proposals. Variety Radio Ltd. offered a well-resourced service containing a mix of speech and music. Members noted that applicants' research information revealed that in South and West Yorkshire the over-35s are currently under-served by existing local commercial radio, and that there is a demand from this audience for more local news provision. In Members' view, Variety FM would do much to address the outstanding needs of listeners in the area because it proposes a service which is likely to appeal to 35-54 year olds with a format which is rich in local news programming.
Members were confident that Variety FM had sufficient resources and commitment to deliver its programme proposals, and maintain the planned service effectively over time. Members also noted the local credentials and radio industry experience of the board, the extensive experience of the proposed management team in both regional radio and in delivery of the planned programme format, the importance given to marketing in the budget, and the well-judged financial and audience projections. Members were impressed by GMG’s investment plans for the station, which included developing a training school, something that in Members' view would be a real contribution to the community.
Variety FM will broadcast a mix of speech and music, with a minimum daytime speech level of 40%. Members felt that this format would broaden choice compared to other existing local commercial radio services broadcasting in the area. Proposed programmes include two one-hour all-speech programmes at peak-time, an arts and entertainment programme on Sunday evenings and extensive sports coverage, including a one-hour programme during the cricket season to be presented by retired umpire Dickie Bird. Variety FM intends to have its own extensively resourced newsroom which will enable the station to broadcast locally-produced and presented news bulletins 24 hours a day, to be supplemented by extended programmes at peak times. Musically, the service will consist of ‘easy listening’ tracks drawn evenly from the past four decades, overlapping only to a minimum degree with existing music-based local stations.
As well as running a trial broadcast, and developing a website providing news and information for the region, the group has undertaken nearly 100 individual presentations in the run-up to the award. Such activity has generated a strong amount of local support, with over 250 letters being submitted, many from listeners to the trial broadcast plus a wide variety of organisations, businesses and local decision-makers.
Variety Radio Ltd is owned by the Guardian Media Group, the publishers of national newspapers The Guardian and The Observer. Under the Broadcasting Act 1996, a national newspaper proprietor cannot hold a local or regional radio licence, unless the Radio Authority determines that the holding would not be against the public interest. To look at this matter, the Radio Authority conducted a cross-media ‘public interest test’ separately from its consideration of the Variety Radio application. The public consultation yielded no relevant concerns. The Authority found that plurality and diversity would not be reduced if GMG were to hold the licence, that no specific economic benefits would arise from the holding, and that there were no implications for the proper operation of the market. Therefore, the Radio Authority was able to make a positive public interest determination.
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:
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 service 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, 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.
When it advertised the availability of the South and West Yorkshire 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 the Central Libraries in Sheffield (social sciences department) Leeds (business and research department) and Bradford (business and commerce department) and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 6 February 2001 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.
All sixteen applications have been 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 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.
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