30 October 2001
Radio Authority publishes assessment of local licence re-award for Thamesmead
The Radio Authority has today published the details of its assessment of the Thamesmead local licence re-award made to Millennium FM on 5 October 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.
RE-ADVERTISED LICENCE AWARD: THAMESMEAD
ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY
Applications for the re-advertised licence for the Thamesmead area of South-East London were invited on 7 February 2001. By the closing date of 8 May 2001, three applications were received, from:
Millennium FM Ltd., the existing licence holder
Unity FM Ltd.
The licence was re-awarded to Millennium FM Ltd. on 5 October 2001, to run for a further period of eight years from 1 January 2003.
Assessment of the application
Millennium FM was acquired by the Fusion Radio Group last November, since when it has benefitted from substantial investment. The board has been completely refreshed, and now comprises eight directors who between them offer a good combination of local knowledge and contacts, and radio management expertise. Members were of the opinion that the station was financially relatively secure, and that its future business strategy was fairly sound (although they considered its revenue forecasts to be somewhat optimistic). The proposed staffing plan appeared adequate to meet the demands of the programme schedule and to make sensible use of the wider resources of the Fusion Radio Group (which is based in nearby Lewisham) to provide support in several key areas of the business, such as the production of local news, sales and administration.
Members considered that Millennium FM's proposals catered particularly well for the tastes and interests of radio listeners living in the designated licence area of the Thamesmead district and surrounding parts of the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley. Indeed, they were of the opinion that Millennium FM was the only applicant that was genuinely seeking to provide a service that had the area which had been advertised as its primary focus, and this was a major factor in the Authority’s decision. Members noted that its programme proposals for the new licence term offered a not insignificant amount of locally produced and presented speech, including a commitment to an hour-long discussion-based programme to be broadcast each weekday afternoon, as well as regular 'short-form' speech features. The music output will continue to be a mix of melodic and classic hits from the last four decades with a particular emphasis on hits from the 1980's and 1970's. Millennium's commitment to local news is quite impressive for a station of this size, and Members were pleased to note that the current level of commitment would be maintained during the forthcoming licence term. The station will continue to broadcast full bulletins every hour between 07.00 and 23.00 on weekdays, with an extended bulletin of 15 minutes duration at 13.00. The hour-long news magazine programme, added to the schedule since the station's new owners took control, will continue to be broadcast each weekday evening at 18.00. The station will also remain committed to the coverage of local sport.
Millennium FM's application attracted a substantial amount of support from the Thamesmead community. Letters and endorsements were received from locally elected representatives, local charity and community groups, local businesses and listeners themselves.
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:
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 Thamesmead area, held by Millennium FM, expires on 31 December 2002. The licence was 'pre-advertised' in November 2000 under the provisions of the 'special application procedure' introduced in the 1996 Broadcasting Act. Two 'declarations of intent to apply' were received, from other parties, in addition to one from the existing licence holder and therefore the licence was fully re-advertised. 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 sections of the applications were made available for public inspection in the reference sections of Woolwich Library and Bexley Central Library and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 8 May 2001 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.
The applications were 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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