30 April 2003

Radio Authority publishes assessment of local licence award for Maidstone

The Radio Authority has today (30 April) published the details of its assessment of the local licence award for the Maidstone area. The Authority awarded the licence to 20/20 on 10 April 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.



BY 20/20

Applications for a licence to serve the town of Maidstone, in Kent were invited on 30 August 2002. By the closing date of 7 January 2003, six applications were received, from the following groups:

Go-FM (Absolute Radio Kent Ltd.)

Maidstone Live (Maidstone FM The Max Ltd.)

MLR (Maidstone Local Radio Ltd.)

RFM (Radio For Maidstone Ltd.)

Stone FM - Maidstone Community Radio (Starmela.co.uk Ltd.)

20/20 (Maidstone Radio Ltd.)

The licence was awarded to 20/20 on 10 April 2003, to run for eight years from the date that the service commences broadcasting.

Assessment of the successful application

Members considered that the application from 20/20 represented a realistic and sustainable proposition for the Maidstone area – a market where a new entrant will face considerable competition. The group's business plan contained credible revenue and cost estimates which were consistent with experience of the local radio market. The KM Group, a local radio and newspaper owner, is one of the major shareholders in the group, and will provide 20/20 with opportunities for resource-sharing in sales and news provision, for cross-promotion as well as access to its regional advertisers. Members acknowledged the group's strong local roots and its long-term commitment to bringing commercial radio to Maidstone, which had started with the first of eleven trial broadcasts in 1993, and had subsequently become focal in the campaign for local radio in the town.

20/20 will provide a full-service radio station primarily targeting listeners aged 25-54. The speech content of the service will comprise 20-30% of daytime output during weekdays. Members considered that the local characteristics of the speech features committed to by the group would enable it to broaden choice for listeners in Maidstone. In addition to standard features, the station would include a charity slot, a daily jobsearch and an entertainment programme in its schedule. It also proposes a full-three hour Sunday evening show featuring a review of the week's news, studio guests and a listener 'phone-in'. News will consist of bulletins of between three and five minutes in length throughout daytime, and an extended (15 minute) news bulletin each weekday at 13.00 and 18.00. A four-hour sports programme will air on Saturday afternoons. In terms of its music output, the station will provide a good mix of hits from the past four decades, and although it does not propose any specialist music programmes it intends to broadcast a range of mainstream music variants which complement the main music mix during non-daytime hours.

20/20's extensive and long-term involvement in the local community ensured that it could demonstrate a good level of support from locally-elected representatives, local businesses and listeners who had previously enjoyed its many 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 Maidstone, the Authority invited public comment on the local radio needs of listeners in these areas, and the type of programme service required. Copies of the non-confidential sections of the applications were made available for public scrutiny in Maidstone Reference Library, and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 7 January 2003 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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Revised: April 30, 2003