17 July 2002


Radio Authority publishes assessment of local FM licence for Skye & Lochalsh

The Radio Authority has today (17 July 2002) published the details of its assessment of the local licence award for Skye and Lochalsh. The Authority awarded the licence to Cuillins FM Ltd. on 4 July 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 island of Skye and other parts of the area formerly served by Skye & Lochalsh District Council, on the west coast of Scotland, were invited on 21 December 2001. By the closing date of 26 March 2002, one application had been received, from Cuillins FM Ltd., to broadcast as Cuillin FM. This group was awarded the licence on 4 July 2002, to run for eight years from the date that the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the application

Cuillin FM follows in the tradition of small-scale, community-based radio in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, offering a broad range of locally-focused programming in an area that is otherwise unserved by Independent Local Radio. Cuillin FM was established in 1993 and has run two trial broadcasts in the area since that time. The group has also conducted a feasibility study and, through its association with the Highlands and Islands Community Broadcasting Federation (HICBF), learned from the experience of other Highlands broadcasters.

Live programming will be provided for an hour at breakfast time (08.00 - 09.00) and throughout the evening (17.00 - 22.00) on weekdays, and between 12.00 and 22.00 at weekends. This represents a typical approach for community stations which utilise volunteer staff as presenters. The strong local focus and high speech content of this live output should provide a valuable service to a community without existing local radio coverage. The proposed music output is characterised by a wide range of specialist shows. Speech features are to include community spots, local history slots, interviews, public debates and quizzes. Cuillin FM intends to broadcast two hours per week of Gaelic language programmes. At times when live local programming is not being broadcast, a sustaining service consisting of pre-recorded music will be provided.

Cuillin FM received support from the local enterprise company and the Highland Council, as well as other local organisations and local representatives. The financial model it proposes is similar to other rural Scottish services which, although run on minimal budgets, manage to sustain highly valued local services.


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 Skye & Lochalsh, 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 application was made available for public inspection in the reference sections of the local libraries in Portree and Plockton, and at the Authority’s offices in London. The Authority took all public comments into account when reaching its decision.

The application has 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.


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Revised: July 17, 2002