145/02

15 November 2002

 

Radio authority publishes assessment of re-advertised local licence award for Greater London

The Radio Authority has today (15 November) published the details of its assessment of the re-advertised local licence award for Greater London. The Authority awarded the licence to Club Asia on 7 November 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.

 

 

RE-ADVERTISED LICENCE AWARD: GREATER LONDON

ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION BY CLUB ASIA


Applications for the re-advertised licence for Greater London on the AM waveband were invited on 21 March 2002. By the closing date of 25 June 2002, eight applications had been submitted, from:

Liberty Radio Ltd., the existing licensee

Abracadabra Broadcasting & Communications Ltd.,

Asian Talk Radio Ltd.,

Club Asia (London) Ltd.,

Planet AM (Hercules Productions Ltd.),

Saga Radio Ltd.,

Takeover Radio Ltd.,

Tap Radio (London) Ltd.

The licence was awarded to Club Asia, to run for a period of eight years from 3 July 2003. When granted, the licence will contain a condition restricting Mr Tofail Ahmad from involvement in the licence-holding company and the running of the radio service. This is in response to allegations that Mr Ahmad would be controlling the licence holder through his daughters (jointly the two controlling shareholders of Club Asia Ltd). As Mr. Ahmad was convicted of evasion of customs and excise duty and VAT, he would be disqualified from holding a Radio Authority licence. The Authority is satisfied that Mr Ahmad has no involvement in Club Asia and will ensure, through a licence condition, that he does not become so involved in the future.

Assessment of the application

In Members' view, the extensive research conducted by Club Asia made a compelling case for the provision of a format designed to appeal to the young Asian population who it demonstrated were currently an under-served group in the capital. The new service would represent a significant broadening of choice in London and would enhance the diversity of the independent local radio services on offer to the capital. Club Asia proposes addressing the needs of this audience by providing a service targeting 15-34 year olds and broadcasting a combination of Asian and Western music, incorporating genres such as Bhangra, Asian Pop, Hindi Film tracks, Asian Garage and R&B. Speech output will be predominantly in English, mixed with South Asian languages, and will comprise at least 15% of the day-time output. It will contain features that Members considered would be of appeal to the target audience, including social action and career items. This format has been developed by Club Asia on its internet and satellite service and, terrestrially, through programme provision to Spectrum Radio, an existing London-wide licensee. This broadcasting activity has already started to raise audience awareness of Club Asia, as indicated by the audience research submitted.

Members noted that Club Asia's board combined a range of radio expertise with strong connections to the capital. The involvement of EMG (Ethnic Media Group), publishers of Eastern Eye, the largest-selling Asian newspaper in the country, would seem to offer good marketing and promotional opportunities. In Members' view the staffing proposals were sensible and the business plan was based on reasonable assumptions. Members welcomed the fact that an experienced launch director would be available on a part-time basis for two years to help the station to establish itself in a competitive market.

The group has demonstrated its commitment to providing a service to the young Asian community, not solely through its provision of Club Asia through a variety of platforms, but also through its involvement in community events, and alliances with local organisations in London such as Tower Hamlets College and West Ham United Football Club. The group has also acted as the official radio station for Channel 4's Indian Summer festival, which was held in Regents Park, and carried out a similar role at the Respect anti-racism festival organised by the Greater London Authority. Consequently, Club Asia generated a significant level of support for its proposals.

Background

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 licence for Greater London on the AM waveband, held by Liberty Radio Ltd., broadcasting as Liberty Radio 963/972 AM, expires on 2 July 2003. The licence was fully re-advertised , without allowing the incumbent the possibility of a 'fast track' re-application, because it is a category A local licence (i.e. one with population coverage of more than 4.5 million adults aged 15+) and therefore excluded from eligibility for the 'special application procedure'. Furthermore, Liberty Radio Ltd., was unable to seek automatic licence renewal through provision of a digital sound programme service on a relevant multiplex because of its status as a religious body. The Authority invited public comment on the local radio needs of listeners in the area, and the type of programme service required. A copy of the non-confidential sections of the applications were made available for public inspection at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 25 June 2002 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

The application were 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: November 15, 2002