17 July 2002

Radio Authority publishes assessment of (small-scale) local licence re-award for Oxford


The Radio Authority has today (17 July) published the details of its assessment of the Oxford (small-scale) local licence re-award made to Fusion 107.9 FM 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 the re-advertised small-scale licence for the city of Oxford were invited on 2 November 2001. By the closing date of 12 February 2002, four applications were received, from:

Fusion 107.9 FM Ltd., the existing licence holder

Blue FM (Oxford Radio Ltd.)

Juice 107.9 (Juice Oxford Ltd.)

More FM (South Central Media Ltd.)

The licence was re-awarded to Fusion 107.9 FM Ltd. on 4 July 2002, to run for a further period of eight years from 14 February 2003.

Assessment of the successful application

In considering the applications, the Members of the Authority took account of the fact that the applicants had commented upon the unusually high proportion of young adults in the population of this licence area, and also of recent trends in the audience profile of the area's 'first generation' ILR service Fox FM. They concluded that a stronger case existed for a service specifically targeting young listeners in Oxford than for one aiming at the 35-54 age-range, especially as Fox performs very well with the 35 plus age group.

Fusion Radio Holdings Ltd., the owner of the existing Oxford small-scale licensee Fusion 107.9 FM, had acquired the station (then known as Oxygen 107.9) in late 2000. Members felt that Fusion's application revealed a good insight into various problems which it had inherited, and recognised that the licence re-application process provided an opportunity for Fusion to address these, including the re-definition of the programme format so as to more accurately reflect the group's analysis of the current and future programming requirements of its target audience, and the implementation of permissible improvements to its transmission arrangements to improve coverage in and around the city of Oxford. Members noted that Fusion Radio Holdings had invested substantially in sales and programming staff since acquiring the station and, together with the potential for effective resource-sharing with other local stations in the region, and the local television service Six TV, with which it has ownership links, this provided the basis for a more viable operation in the period ahead. The local board of directors had been strengthened by the addition both of radio specialists and local business people with involvement in Oxford's youth market.

In programming terms, Members felt that Fusion 107.9 FM had put forward creative ideas for speech content that would be attractive to listeners, and were proposing a varied mix of youth music genres designed to appeal to those aged under 30; in particular, Fusion had recognised the traditional place of alternative rock music in the local music scene, and its popularity among the student community. Monitoring had confirmed that Fusion was providing a good range of music output and a competent local news service, and was offering programming that was distinctively different from that of the area's other ILR service, Fox FM. Nevertheless, Members were conscious that much remains to be done to build up the station's listenership, and felt that the group's forecasts of future audience growth would prove challenging. Fusion 107.9 FM had attracted a good volume of direct local support for its application.


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 small-scale licence for Oxford, held by Fusion 107.9 FM Ltd., expires on 13 February 2003. The original eight-year licence period was shortened by two years in September 1999, as part of a regulatory sanction imposed upon the station under previous ownership; this also precluded the possibility of 'fast track' re-licensing under the 'special application procedure' set out in section 104B of the 1990 Act as amended. 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 section of Oxford Central Library, and at the Authority’s offices in London. Public comments on the applications were invited, and the Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

The application was 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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Revised: July 17, 2002