18 April 2002


Radio Authority publishes assessment of local FM licence for Reading

The Radio Authority has today (18 April) published the details of its assessment of the local licence award for Reading. The Authority awarded the licence to New City FM on 14 March 2002.

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 for a licence to serve the town of Reading, in Berkshire, and the immediately surrounding area were invited on 7 June 2001. By the closing date of 11 September 2001, five applications were received, as follows:

106.9 Crown FM (Reading Broadcast Ltd.)

Juice Reading (Reading FM Ltd.)

New City FM (Reading Broadcasting Co. Ltd.)

Reading 107 (Oracle Broadcasting Ltd.)

RFM (Reading Community Radio Ltd.)

The licence was awarded to New City FM, to run for eight years from the date that the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the winning application

New City FM is a group consisting of Surrey and Berkshire Newspapers, a subsidiary of Guardian Media Group; the Goodhead Group plc, owned by local businessman and chairman of Reading Football Club, John Madejski; and the Milestone Group, the company which runs Kick FM in Newbury and Kestrel FM in Basingtoke. In Members' view, New City FM presented a strong business plan that benefited from credible backing. Links with neighbouring stations and the local newspaper group will provide the station with good marketing and promotional opportunities, and the appointment of an experienced launch director for a minimum of 18 months will help the station to establish itself in a competitive market.

New City FM plans to broadcast a full music-led service for an audience aged between 25 and 54. The proposed music output is an era-based mix of 'adult contemporary' music from the last forty years. Speech programming will comprise at least 20% of the weekday daytime output. Members considered that speech features such as 'Network Neighbourhood', a pre-recorded visit to a local community, took particular note of the tastes and interests of local people. Members were also pleased to see that the group had responded to the findings of its audience and market research by including the programme 'New City World', a speech-intensive, ethnically-focused programme which would also feature a wide range of music. Members were confident that such programming features would broaden the range of services available to listeners in Reading. Members noted the position of community manager in the station's staffing plan, a role partially funded through local sponsorship that would provide a point of contact for local, ethnic and minority interest groups. Because of the involvement of businesses committed to the local community in the New City FM group, Members were hopeful that such local programming initiatives would continue on a long-term basis.

The station will provide mixed news bulletins of between two and four minutes, aired between 0600 and 2100 during the week with headlines interspersed at peaktimes, and an extended 15-minute weekday bulletin. Business and sports news will also be provided. The Reading Evening Post, owned by Surrey and Berkshire Newspapers, has given a commitment to work with the news and sports team at the station. Members considered that listeners would welcome the provision of a Saturday sports show and the intended coverage of Reading FC football matches.

The group received support from locally elected representatives, local businesses and listeners to the trial broadcast it undertook in December 2000.

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 a local licence for the town of Reading and the immediately surrounding area, 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 information section of Reading Central Library, and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 11 September 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.

Press enquiries: 
Kerry Curtis, Press & Information Officer: 020 7887 4290
Karen Kimberlin, Press & Information Assistant 020 7887 4294
Out of hours 07770 375283

General enquiries:
Press and Information Office: 020 7887 4357

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Revised: April 18, 2002