24 September 2002

Radio Authority publishes assessment of local digital multiplex licence award for Norwich

The Radio Authority has today (24 September) published the details of its assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for the Norwich area. The Authority awarded the licence to Now Digital 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.




The local digital radio multiplex service licence for the Norwich area was awarded to Now Digital Ltd. on Thursday 5 September 2002, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Applications were invited on 14 December 2001. By the closing date of 19 March 2002, two applications were received, from:

  • Emap Digital Radio Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Emap Performance Ltd.
  • Now Digital Ltd., a wholly-owned subsidiary of GWR Group plc.

Consideration of the successful application

1.   Coverage area and timetable

Now Digital's technical plan proposes utilising five transmitters, located at Stoke Holy Cross, Thetford, West Runton, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth. Now Digital has also identified a further three potential sites for possible implementation later in the licence period. According to the applicant's own estimates, its initial transmission network will provide ‘outdoor coverage’ of 86.5% of the adult (aged 15+) population of the ‘primary protected area’ (PPA). Subject to frequency clearance, Now Digital is planning to launch the service in March 2003.

2.   Ability to establish and maintain the service

Now Digital Ltd. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GWR Group plc and an experienced operator of digital radio multiplexes. Members took the view that Now Digital's application presented a prudent and achievable business plan.

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

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

Contemporary chart hit radio           Broadland 102 (provider: Radio Broadland Ltd.)

Gold                                               Classic Gold Amber (provider: Classic Gold Digital Ltd.)

Dance                                             Vibe FM (provider: Eastern Counties Radio Ltd.)

Local service (Great Yarmouth)       The Beach (provider: East Coast Radio Ltd.)

Modern rock                                   The Storm (provider: GWR Group plc)

Adult contemporary/green issues      Passion (provider: Passion for the Planet Ltd.)

Either easy listening for 45 pluses     Provider: to be confirmed
contemporary and classic


Pre-teen and teenage                       Capital Disney (provider: Capital Radio plc)

Access Norwich (including student   Various including SBN/Livewire (provider SBN Ltd.)
broadcasting, and service for            and AbracaDABra (provider: Soundstart Ltd.)
under-10s and their carers) 

In Members' view, the programme bouquet proposed by Now Digital catered well for the tastes and interests of the listeners in the area by the inclusion of the local analogue services Broadland 102, Classic Gold Amber, The Beach and Vibe FM. Now Digital will also be providing for more localised and specialist interests by means of a shared channel called 'Access Norwich', two elements of which have so far been firmly identified, with a third component currently under negotiation. SBN/Livewire will provide student broadcasting, and Abracadabra its service for younger children. The digital-only channels proposed for carriage, The Storm and Passion for the Planet, will contain local news from launch. In addition, other specific local programming for a minimum of four hours per day will commence within two years of launch on The Storm. The Capital Disney service, and the country or easy listening service will not provide local content until one-third penetration of digital radio has been achieved. Members were pleased with the extent to which the certainty of these channels' readiness for broadcast had been established by Now Digital, and the detail with which the proposals for new channels such as Access Norwich had been presented.

4.   Broadening the range of local digital programme services

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

5.   Local support

Now Digital obtained a good number of letters of endorsement from the local community and its representatives, many of which reflected the positive reputation of the local ILR company Broadland 102 (which is under the same ownership as Now Digital). The group also conducted a series of competent research exercises.

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.


Copies of the non-confidential section of the applications were made available for public inspection in the reference section of the Norfolk and Norwich Millenium Library in Norwich, and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 19 March 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.

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Revised: September 24, 2002