1 August 2001

Radio Authority publishes assessment of new local licence for Omagh & Enniskillen

The Radio Authority has today (1 August) published the details of its assessment of the Omagh & Enniskillen local licence award made to Radio West FM. The Authority awarded the licence on 5 July 2001.

A copy of the full assessment is attached.





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.






Applications were invited on 29 November 2000. By the closing date of 13 March 2001, four applications were received, as follows:

Fast FM Ltd.

Southwest Radio (Southwest FM Ltd.)

Radio West FM (Radio West Ltd.)

Westside 101 (Lisara Ltd.) – subsequently disqualified because it did not comply with legislative restrictions on cross-media ownership.

The licence was awarded to Radio West Ltd., to run for eight years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the winning application

Members found this licence award decision challenging because all three applicants demonstrated distinctive strengths and capabilities. However, after lengthy consideration Members judged that of all the applicants, Radio West FM would best be able to meet the statutory criteria over the eight year licence period.

Radio West Ltd. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Londonderry service Q102.9, which also operates a service in Coleraine, and consequently its board executives and management have considerable experience of running successful radio stations in Northern Ireland. Members took the view that this experience, together with prudent audience and financial projections, sensible business planning and deliverable programme proposals, would ensure that the service could be sustained effectively over the licence period.

Members welcomed the clarity with which Radio West FM presented its service proposals, and the fact that the audience survey research commissioned by the group had been used to inform its programming plans. Radio West FM intends to provide a 24 hour a day service, 18 hours of which will be locally produced and presented, targeting primarily an audience of 25 to 54 year olds with a full service of local relevance. Its programming content will consist of a minimum of 20% speech and will include outside broadcasts from local events, and features such as community information and farming news. Members noted that Radio West FM’s news schedule was regular and consistent, and offered local, as well as national and international news, at weekends. The music content of the service consists of a mix of easy-listening, Irish country and current tracks which Members recognised would both broaden listening choice in the area, and answer a local demand which was evident in the research presented in the application.

Background to award

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 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 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 Omagh and Enniskillen local 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 main public libraries in Omagh and Enniskillen and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 13 March 2001 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

All of the 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.