24 September 2002


Radio Authority publishes assessment of local licence award for Worthing

The Radio Authority has today (24 September) published the details of its assessment of the local licence award for Worthing. The Authority awarded the licence to Splash FM Ltd. on 5 September 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 Worthing, in West Sussex, and the immediately surrounding area were invited on 22 November 2001. By the closing date of 26 February 2002, six applications were received, as follows:

Southdown Radio Ltd.
Splash FM Ltd.

WBC (WBC Radio for Worthing Ltd.)
Worth FM Radio Ltd.
Worthing Radio Ltd.

YWFM (West Sussex Radio Ltd.)

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

Assessment of the successful application

Members were impressed by the composition of the board of Splash FM which, in their view, combined strong local credentials with extensive radio management expertise. They noted the high level of commitment shown by the directors of this group: three have pledged specifically to assist the station's management team for at least one day per week during its first year, while the others will provide support or advice on an ad hoc basis.

Members considered the group's programme proposals to be well-developed, imaginative, and a fair reflection of the results of its survey research. They also felt that they were economically sustainable, an important consideration for a new station in a town the size of Worthing. A music-led, full-service station for listeners aged over 25 (and in particular those aged 35-54), Splash FM will play a mixture of popular favourites from the last forty years and today. However, the station will air only a limited amount of contemporary material, which should help to ensure that it broadens choice musically, in comparison to the area's existing ILR services. Speech with a strong local focus will form an important part of the programming, and Members were pleased to note that the group's application included plans for a good number of different speech features. Members were particularly impressed by the group's proposal for a weekly programme targeted specifically at children and young families (the 'Brunch Bunch'). This programme will be presented by the children's television presenter Dave Benson Phillips, and Members noted that he and fellow broadcaster David Hamilton had already demonstrated a significant level of commitment to the station by contributing to the group's promotional activities. This, they felt, would enhance the station's early performance.

While appreciating that it is the group's intention to employ 'multi-skilled' staff capable of working across standard departmental boundaries, Members felt that the group's staffing plan was structured in such a way that it placed insufficient emphasis on news. They also considered the absence of local news on Sundays to be a weakness. However, they noted that in its application the group had tacitly acknowledged the problem by stating that it hoped to increase the number of full-time staff in the newsroom. Members would strongly encourage the group to address this issue as soon as possible.

Members felt that Splash FM's revenue projections were a little ambitious (a feature of many applications to the Radio Authority), but considered its financial proposals to be sound overall. In particular, they viewed the sizeable marketing budget proposed by the group to be an advantage, which should enable it to build on the promotional activity that it has already undertaken locally. Splash FM's application gained an impressive amount of local support, with numerous endorsements from local businesses, societies and voluntary organisations.

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 Worthing, 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 reference section of Worthing Central Library, and at the Authority's offices in London. A notice was issued on 26 February 2002 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

All of the applications were considered carefully by the Authority in accordance with the Act, and 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.

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Revised: September 23, 2002