64/02

 24 May 2002

Radio Authority publishes assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for South Hampshire 

The Radio Authority has today (24 May) published the details of its assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for the South Hampshire area. The Authority awarded the licence to Capital Radio Digital Ltd. on 9 May 2002.

A copy of the full assessment is attached. 

ENDS

 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 DIGITAL RADIO MULTIPLEX SERVICE:

SOUTH HAMPSHIRE

ASSESSMENT OF LICENCE AWARD

The local digital radio multiplex service licence for the South Hampshire area, including the cities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Winchester and the Isle of Wight, was awarded to Capital Radio Digital Ltd. on Thursday 9 May 2002, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Applications were invited on 9 November 2001. By the closing date of 12 February 2002, two applications were received, from:

  • Capital Radio Digital Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Capital Radio plc.

  • Solent Digital Radio Ltd., a company which is jointly owned by Emap Digital Radio Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Emap Performance Ltd., and SCORE Digital Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Scottish Radio Holdings plc, on a 50:50 basis.

Consideration of the successful application

  1. Coverage area and timetable

Capital Radio Digital (CRD) proposes to commence broadcasting all of its services, subject to contract, in January 2003, using five transmitters (at Chillerton Down, Toot Hill, Crabwood Farm, Fort Southwick and The Trundle), which it estimates will provide 'outdoor coverage' of 96.8% of the adult population of the South Hampshire 'primary protected area' (PPA). Although the two applicants proposed virtually identical transmission networks, they chose different options within the digital radio technical specification in respect of the protection level (the 'UEP level') to be afforded to the signals. This has implications for the robustness of coverage and, according to the Authority's calculations, CRD's intention to use a higher protection level delivered an appreciably better coverage of the population in the PPA for this licence. Members noted that the difference between the applicants was especially pronounced in respect of the extent of reception which might be expected within buildings in the more challenging environment of the major population centres, most notably within the city of Southampton.

2. Ability to establish and maintain the service

Capital Radio Digital Ltd. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Capital Radio, formed with the intention of applying for digital multiplex licences in areas where Capital already operates local analogue services. Capital is already involved in multiplex operations elsewhere, either in its own right or as a partner or participant in other companies running digital multiplexes. Members considered that it had the funding and experience necessary to establish and maintain this local multiplex. Members noted that, of the applicants, CRD had succeeded in keeping the carriage costs for programme providers to a more readily affordable level, which made their involvement on the multiplex a financially more viable opportunity for them and enhanced the likelihood that they would be able to maintain their participation in the long term. In Members' view the fact that all of the digital capacity had been allocated to identified service providers gave the project additional security.

3. Catering for tastes and interests of people in the area

The commercial programme services proposed by the successful applicant are as follows:

Adult contemporary Ocean FM (provider: Ocean Radio Group Ltd.)

Contemporary hit radio 103.2 Power FM (provider: Ocean Radio Group Ltd.)

Gold Capital Gold (provider: Ocean RadioGroup Ltd.)

Soft rock, AC and speech Wave 105.2 (provider: SRH plc)*

Easy listening Saga Radio (provider: Saga Regional Digital Radio Ltd.)

Rock The Storm (provider: GWR Group plc)

AC/world music and speech Passion (provider: Passion for the Planet Ltd.)

and a channel to be shared between:

Student radio SBN (provider: Channelfly plc)

(18.00-06.00, every day)

Southampton local service SouthCity FM (provider: SouthCity FM Ltd.)

(06.00-11.00, weekdays)

Under-10s Abracadabra (provider: Soundstart Radio Networks Ltd.)

(12.00-18.00, weekdays, 06.00-18.00, weekdays)

Hospital radio Southampton Hospital Radio (provider:

(11.00-12.00, weekdays) Southampton Hospital Broadcasting Association)

[* = subject to agreement]

CRD is proposing to offer full simulcasts of the four main commercial services currently available in analogue form in the area: namely, Ocean FM, Power FM, Capital Gold and, subject to agreement with the licence holder, the regional service Wave 105. Members were impressed by CRD's more fully developed plans for a shared channel, and considered that its services would provide listeners with a wide range of specialised content, such as the services for students and for children aged under 10, and locally relevant content through the morning peak-time simulcasts of the small-scale local licensee for Southampton, SouthCity FM, and a slot for Southampton Hospital Radio. The student service, SBN, will be introducing local programming from Southampton University and Southampton Institute from launch, subject to a quality threshold. The digital-only services of Saga, Passion and Abracadabra have agreed to introduce local programming when digital radio penetration reaches 33%, and GWR has said that it intends to include local content on The Storm by 2005.

4. Broadening the range of local digital programme services

As this is the only local multiplex covering the South Hampshire area to be licensed, now or in the foreseeable future, the 'broadening of choice' criterion is effectively satisfied by default.

5. Local support

In Members' view both applicants had made impressive efforts to promote the establishment of local digital radio services in South Hampshire. CRD sought to generate awareness of, and support for, its proposals by a number of different means including holding presentations and a series of one-to-one meetings with local opinion formers and advertisers, and placing advertisements in the local press. CRD had been particularly successful in gaining evidence of support from the local business community and from elected representatives of the public.

6. Fair and effective competition

The Authority has been given no reason to believe that the applicants did not each act in a manner calculated to ensure fair and effective competition when contracting or offering to contract with potential or proposed service providers. In accordance with the licence conditions pursuant to the Broadcasting Act 1996, the Authority will keep matters of fair and effective competition and undue discrimination under regular review.

BACKGROUND

Copies of the non-confidential section of the applications were made available for public inspection in the reference sections of Southampton Central Library, Portsmouth Central Library and the Louis Library in Newport (Isle of Wight), and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 12 February 2002 inviting public comments on the applications.

Under the terms of section 51(2) of the Broadcasting Act 1996, when considering whether, or to whom, to award a local digital radio multiplex licence, the Authority must have regard to the following specific matters:

  1. the extent of the coverage area as proposed by the applicant;

  2. the timetable relating to achievement of the proposed coverage area and the start of broadcast services;

  3. the ability of the applicant to establish the proposed service and to maintain it throughout the period for which the licence will be in force;

  4. the extent to which the digital programme services proposed to be included in the service would cater for the tastes and interests of persons living in the area and, where it is proposed to cater for particular tastes and interests, the extent to which those services would in fact cater for those tastes and interests;

  5. the extent to which any proposed digital sound programme services would broaden the range of programmes available by way of local digital programme services in that area and, in particular, the extent to which they would cater for tastes and interests different from those already catered for by local digital programme services already provided in that area;

  6. the extent to which the application is supported by persons living in the area; and

  7. whether, in contracting or offering to contract with persons providing digital programme services or digital additional services, the applicant has acted in a manner calculated to ensure fair and effective competition in the provision of such services.

The Authority is also required to take account of any representations made in respect of the applications.

Contact:
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Tel: 020 7887 4290 / 020 7887 4294
Out of hours tel: 07770 375283
Public enquiries:
Tel: 020 7887 4357


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