30 April 2003
Radio Authority publishes assessment of local licence award for West Lothian
The Radio Authority has today (30 April) published the details of its assessment of the local licence award for the area of West Lothian. The Authority awarded the licence to River FM on 10 April 2003.
A copy of the full assessment is attached.
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 LICENCE AWARD: WEST LOTHIAN
ASSESSMENT OF SUCCESSFUL APPLICATION
BY RIVER FM
Applications for a licence to serve the area of West Lothian, in central Scotland, were invited on 3 October 2002. By the closing date of 28 January 2003, one application had been received, from Almond Radio Ltd., which would broadcast as River FM. This group was awarded the licence on 10 April 2003, to run for eight years from the date that the service commences broadcasting.
Assessment of the application
The board of River FM displayed both commercial radio experience and strong local contacts. It has had a long collective history, and the majority of its members live within the station's
TSA. UKRD, owners of Clan FM, the local licensee for North Lanarkshire whose MCA is contiguous with that of River FM, is a major shareholder, and its involvement offers the potential for operational synergies between the two stations.
River FM plans to provide a full-service local radio station for the people of West Lothian, primarily targeting an audience over 25. The group has committed to providing locally originated programming for the minimum periods of weekdays 0700-1900 and weekends 0800-1400. River FM proposes a speech content of 15-35% during weekday daytimes, falling to 10-15% between 1900 and 0600. The news staff will produce their own bulletins incorporating IRN audio at peak times, whilst IRN national bulletins will be broadcast at other times. Sports reports will be added on the half-hour in weekday
peaktimes. Members noted that the group has established a good working relationship with the West Lothian Courier, with which it intends to pool news stories and run on-air activities in support of the paper's community campaigns. Musically, the station will provide a daytime mix of hits drawn from the 1960s to the current chart, with an emphasis on tracks from the 1990s. Scottish music will be included as a part of the general music mix. Four specialist shows at weekends will broadcast country, rock and dance music. In Members' view the programming proposals would broaden listener choice by providing news and information about West Lothian that is unobtainable from existing local stations, and cater effectively for the tastes and interests of its audience.
The group has been heavily involved in the local community for a number of years. As well as undertaking two trial broadcasts in 1999 and 2000 which elicited a very positive response from listeners, the group has had a high profile at gala days and roadshows in West Lothian and has initiated a listeners advisory panel, sponsored a local award, and organised a seminar in association with the West Lothian Chamber of Commerce and Confederation of Small Businesses. As a result of its close engagement with its community, the application from River FM drew letters of explicit support from numerous elected representatives from the area, as well as the extensive volume of letters received in response to its RSL broadcasts.
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 West Lothian 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 scrutiny in the West Lothian College Public Reference Library in Blackburn and at the Radio 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.