3 December 2001
Radio Authority publishes assessment of local licence re-award for Stockport
The Radio Authority has today (30 November) published the details of its assessment of the Stockport local licence re-award made to Imagine FM on 8 November 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: STOCKPORT
ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY
Applications for the re-advertised licence for Stockport were invited on 7 March 2001. By the closing date of 12 June three applications were received, from:
Imagine FM Ltd., the existing licence holder;
Stock FM Ltd.;
RAKA Asian Radio Ltd. This application was subsequently disallowed for failing to comply with the Authority's published procedures.
The licence was re-awarded to Imagine FM Ltd. on 8 November 2001, to run for a further period of eight years from 1 January 2003.
Assessment of the application
The Wireless Group (TWG) acquired the licence for Stockport as part of its purchase of The Radio Partnership in 1999. The station, which was broadcasting as Signal Cheshire, was rebranded as Imagine FM, and an entirely locally produced and presented programme schedule was re-introduced. Members noted that Imagine FM now appears to be enjoying the benefits of this, and its recent investment in staff and training, with steadily improving audience and revenue figures. Members recognised that TWG's intention to reduce the size of the station's TSA used for marketing and editorial purposes, thus offering a more locally focused service to listeners and advertisers, was a strategy that could potentially improve the performance of the station further.
Imagine FM's programme proposals represent a continuation of its present service, but with an increase in the minimum daytime speech content from 15% to 20%. This increase in speech content is accounted for by recently extended news bulletins at 08.00, 13.00 and 18.00, live match commentaries from Stockport FC, to which Imagine FM now has exclusive rights, and regular community service items. Members welcomed the increased local focus provided by such changes to the programming, some of which had been developed from suggestions made by the newly created 'local
advisory panel'. The proposals for changes to the music content of the service comprise playing a higher proportion of newer songs in time slots when the audience is predominantly younger, and the addition of more 60s and 70s material into the overall mix.
Imagine FM plays an active role in the local community through various features and appeals, and an appreciation of this involvement was reflected by the support the station received from the local business community and elected representatives.
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 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 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 Stockport, held by Imagine FM, expires on 31 December 2002. The licence was 'pre-advertised' in December 2000 under the provisions of the 'special application procedure' introduced in the 1996 Broadcasting Act. A 'declaration of intent to apply' was received, from another party, 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 information section of Stockport Library and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 12 June 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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