163/02

23 December 2002

 

 

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

The Radio Authority has today (23 December) published the details of its assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for the Swansea area. The Authority awarded the licence to TWG Emap Digital Ltd. on 12 December 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.

 

 

LOCAL DIGITAL RADIO MULTIPLEX SERVICE:

SWANSEA

ASSESSMENT OF LICENCE AWARD

The local digital radio multiplex service licence for the city of Swansea and the surrounding area was awarded to TWG Emap Digital Ltd. on Thursday 12 December 2002, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Applications were invited on 31 May 2002. By the closing date of 24 September 2002, one application was received, from TWG Emap Digital Ltd, a company whose shareholders are The Wireless Group plc and Emap Digital Radio Ltd.

Consideration of the application

1.      Coverage area and timetable

TWG Emap Digital proposes to launch its multiplex, initially carrying four commercial programme services, in January 2004. It intends to implement three transmitter sites (at Kilvey Hill, St Hilary and Carmel) from the outset, which it estimates will achieve 'outdoor coverage' of 80.4% of the adult population of the 'primary protected area' (PPA), with others (at Llanelli, Carmarthen and Mynydd Emroch) to be added subsequently, as the proportion of households with digital radio receivers increases.

2.       Ability to establish and maintain the service

The Wireless Group plc and Emap Digital Radio Ltd. are both experienced operators of local digital multiplexes, and Members took the view that the application produced by TWG Emap Digital Ltd. presented a sustainable business proposal. Members considered that the involvement of The Wireless Group, operator of the area's two local independent radio services, Swansea Sound and The Wave, offered strong incentives to make the project successful, and provided an opportunity to cross-promote the digital service on its analogue stations and undertake combined local marketing initiatives.

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

Since the submission of its application, TWG Emap Digital had decided to bring forward the date from which one of its proposed programme services, Smash Hits, would be available; this service will now be carried from the launch of the multiplex. The commercial programme services proposed by the successful applicant are as follows:

Contemporary hit radio The Wave (provider: The Wireless Group plc)

Adult contemporary Swansea Sound (provider: The Wireless Group plc)

Dance Kiss (provider: Emap Performance Ltd.)

Non-stop pop Smash Hits (provider: Emap Performance Ltd.)

The following services would be added later in the licence period:

Gold/easy Provider: to be confirmed

Rock or country Provider: to be confirmed


Members welcomed the fact that The Wave and Swansea Sound, the extremely popular local commercial radio services for Swansea, would now become available in digital form. Members recognised the difficulty experienced in attracting programme service providers for this multiplex at the present stage of digital radio development, and that therefore there were inherent difficulties in producing a line-up of services which would provide the range and diversity of programming that might be found on some multiplexes serving larger areas. Members expressed the hope that as digital radio as a whole became more fully established, this local multiplex would develop its programme offering, to include services of appeal to a wider range of age groups and include more localised content in the digital-only services.

4.    Broadening the range of local digital programme services

This statutory criterion requires the Authority to judge applicants’ programming packages against existing local digital sound programme services. Most of this area is already covered digitally by MXR's South Wales/Severn Estuary regional multiplex. It would be the provision of the simulcast ILR services, Swansea Sound and The Wave, which would do the most to broaden the range of services provided digitally. Members hoped that the provision of other services in the licence period would present an opportunity to extend the variety of formats provided digitally.

5.    Local support

The group provided a significant amount of direct evidence of local support for its application, largely generated by the involvement of Swansea Sound and The Wave with their local community, but also prompted by a day of seminars about digital radio broadcasting. This consisted of an impressive number of letters of support from elected representatives, local businesses, charities and other organisations. The group also commissioned a modest audience survey to demonstrate public support for its proposed services.

6.    Fair and effective competition

The Authority has no been given no reason to believe that the applicant did not 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.

BACKGROUND

Copies of the non-confidential section of the application was made available for public inspection in Swansea Central Library, and at the Authority's offices in London. A notice was issued on 24 September 2002 inviting public comments on the application.

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 application.

 

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