25 March 2003

Radio Authority publishes assessment of local licence award for Yeovil

The Radio Authority has today (25 March) published the details of its assessment of the local licence award for Yeovil. The Authority awarded the licence to Ivel FM on 6 March 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 town of Yeovil, in South Somerset, and the surrounding area, were invited on 28 May 2002. By the closing date of 17 September 2002, four applications were received, from the following groups:

Ivel FM Ltd.

Merlin FM Ltd.

Mirage FM Ltd.

Yeovil District Radio (FM) Ltd. (YDR FM)

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

Assessment of the successful application

Members noted that, for an area of this size, the licence for Yeovil had generated strong competition from candidates who had put an impressive amount of effort into their applications. However, Members were concerned that the selected applicant should be fully able to sustain a service in challenging market circumstances.

In awarding the licence, Members were conscious that any new service in Yeovil would need to compete against a well-established ILR operation in Orchard FM, the existing local licensee for Yeovil & Taunton, which has consistently achieved a very strong audience following, according to RAJAR figures. Ivel FM is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Radio Investments Ltd. (RIL), a radio group which owns existing radio stations in nearby Dorchester & Weymouth (Wessex FM) and Shaftesbury (Vale FM), amongst various other stations in the region.

Members considered that, as part of the RIL group, Ivel FM would benefit from economies of scale and access to regional and national sales. The board combined local knowledge with relevant, current, local radio experience. Members judged that Ivel FM's business plan was realistic and convincing. They were also pleased to note that Ivel FM's transmission proposals would deliver robust coverage in several smaller neighbouring towns, including Chard and Ilminster, thereby providing a broadening of choice for the largest number of people.

Ivel FM intends to provide a mainstream, music-led programme service, and Members considered the group's proposals in this respect to be particularly coherent and realistic. The station's output will be locally originated for at least 18 hours a day, and it will offer live networked programmes with local branding between 19.00-24.00 from Monday to Thursday, and 22.00-01.00 on Friday. The service will provide a minimum of 20% speech during weekday daytimes, and will include items featuring local charities, interviews with local people and live inserts from around the area. Members considered that Ivel FM's proposals for a comprehensive local news service would be deliverable. The station will provide hourly news bulletins throughout weekday daytimes, in addition to which there will be a 15-minute news programme at 18.00 on weekdays. As well as its own two journalists, the station will be able to call on the support of the news teams at both Wessex FM, and Vale FM, not only for sharing stories and avoiding the duplication of reporting resources but also for specialist training. Music output will comprise a good spread of hits from the last four decades supplemented by selected tracks from the recent past and current releases. This approach should ensure that Ivel will sound distinctly different, musically, from Orchard FM.

Evidence of direct local support for Ivel FM was at a lower level than for other applicants, not least as the group had not conducted any RSLs. Nevertheless, Members considered that, on a balance of all four statutory criteria, the group's proposals were the best of those submitted.

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 Yeovil the Authority invited public comment on the local radio needs of listeners in the area, and the type of programme service required. Copies of the non-confidential sections of the applications were made available for public scrutiny in the reference section of Yeovil Library, and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 17 September 2002 inviting public comments on the applications. The Authority took all replies into account when reaching its decision.

All of the applications have 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. 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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