16 January 2003 

Radio Authority publishes assessment of local licence award for Gairloch & Loch Ewe

The Radio Authority has today (16 January) published the details of its assessment of the local licence award for Gairloch and Loch Ewe. The Authority awarded the licence to Two Lochs Radio on 9 January 2003.

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 communities around Gairloch and Loch Ewe, in Ross-shire on the west coast of Scotland, were invited on 12 July 2002. By the closing date of 22 October 2002, one application had been received, from Wester Ross Radio Ltd., which would broadcast as Two Lochs Radio. This group was awarded the licence on 9 January 2003, to run for eight years from the date that the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the application

Two Lochs Radio submitted a well-presented application, which proposed a distinctive service for an area with its own identity. The group is offering a community-based radio service which will provide locally focused programming in an area that is currently unserved by Independent Local Radio, although some of it may in future receive coverage from Lochbroom FM, based in Ullapool. Members considered that the board demonstrated a range of appropriate skills and had shown continued enthusiasm for, and commitment to, providing a service for Gairloch and Loch Ewe. Evidence of local interest in a service of this kind dated back to the early 1990s.

Two Lochs Radio plans to broadcast locally produced programming for 27 hours each week during peak listening times. Members agreed with the group's assessment that this would represent a sensible commitment for a community-based group dependent on volunteers. The group plans to source its sustaining service from Saga Radio's digital channel, Primetime, which offers an 'easy listening' service, during the day, and either The Mix ('AC'), Planet Rock ('rock') or Core ('young CHR') at night, a proposal which Members considered would help to cater for the tastes and interests of the range of age groups in the area. The station's music output will consist of a predominantly mainstream mix, although specialist genres comprising soul, R&B, folk, country and general Scottish music will also be included. The group has made a commitment to include coverage of news and events affecting Wester Ross and its populace, particularly Gairloch and Loch Ewe, interviews with people and organisations in the news and local information for the community and its visitors, as elements in its speech output. Two Lochs will also provide a one-hour Gaelic current affairs programme once a week from launch.

The group provided strong evidence of support from locally elected representatives and organisations, and had conducted research which showed broad support for its proposals, and from which could be drawn credible audience forecasts. Members recognised that financing the operation of the service could prove challenging over the long-term. However, the financial model proposed by Two Lochs Radio is similar to other rural Scottish services which, although run on minimal budgets, and with unconventional operating arrangements, have a good track record in sustaining local radio services.

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 Gairloch and Loch Ewe, 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 application were made available for public inspection in Gairloch Community Library, and at the Authority’s offices in London. The Authority took all public comments into account when reaching its decision.

The application has been 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 and the coverage brief for this licence, issued at the date of the licence advertisement.

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