29 May 2003



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

The Radio Authority has today (29 May) published the details of its assessment of the local digital multiplex licence award for Nottingham. The Authority awarded the licence to Now Digital (East Midlands) Ltd. on 8 May 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.



The local digital radio multiplex service licence to serve Nottingham and the surrounding area was awarded to Now Digital (East Midlands) Ltd. on Thursday 8 May 2003, to run for twelve years from the date the service commences broadcasting.

Applications were invited on 10 December 2002. By the closing date of 18 March 2003, one application was received, from Now Digital (East Midlands) Ltd., a company comprising Now Digital Ltd., Sabras Sound Ltd., Capital Radio plc and Chrysalis Radio Ltd.

Consideration of the application

1.   Coverage area and timetable

Now Digital (East Midlands) Ltd. (NDEM) proposes to commence broadcasting all of its services by April 2004, using three transmitters, at Mapperley Ridge, Waltham and Mansfield. Use of the Mansfield site (or a suitable alternative) by NDEM would be subject to the agreement of the BBC, which uses the adjacent frequency; this is to control interference. NDEM estimates that this transmission network will provide 'outdoor coverage' of 90.9% of the adult population of the PPA.

2.   Ability to establish and maintain the service

NDEM has as its controlling shareholder Now Digital Ltd., the GWR Group's local digital multiplex operating subsidiary. Two of the other members of the NDEM consortium, Capital Radio and Chrysalis Radio, also have extensive experience of multiplex operation, while the fourth participant, Sabras Sound, has an established presence within the East Midlands region as a local licensee in the neighbouring Leicester area. The involvement of shareholders as programme service providers and the absence of any unallocated capacity on the multiplex gave the application a high degree of financial security.

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

The commercial programme services proposed by the applicant are as follows:

Contemporary hit radio

96 Trent FM (provider: Radio Trent Ltd.)


Classic Gold GEM (provider: Classic Gold Digital Ltd.)

Talk and predominantly AC music

106 Century FM (provider: Capital Radio plc)

Easy listening

Saga 106.6 FM (provider: Saga Group Ltd.)


Galaxy (provider: Chrysalis Radio Ltd.)

Music for today's teenagers and pre-teens

Capital Disney (provider: Capital Radio plc)

Modern rock

The Storm: (provider: GWR Group plc)

Young Asian and community

A Plus (provider: Sabras Sound Ltd.)

Four of the eight commercial services to be carried on this multiplex are already available in analogue form in the Nottingham area. 96.6 Trent FM, the ILR FM station for Nottingham, is the most listened-to service in its TSA. The complementary AM station for Nottingham, Classic Gold GEM, will also be carried, along with the two East Midlands regional stations 106 Century FM and Saga 106.6 FM; together, these simulcast ILR services cater for listeners across a wide age-range. The other four programme services will be new to this area, being provided on a digital-only basis. Capital Disney is designed to appeal to teenagers and pre-teens, and will include some regional news and information appropriate to the target age-group. Chrysalis Radio now intends to provide a relay of Galaxy 105 in Yorkshire, until such time as a digital-only version of the Galaxy brand is developed. The Storm is a modern rock channel, which according to the group's research appeals primarily to 15-34 year old males. The remaining channel on the multiplex will be taken by A Plus, a service which has been developed by NDEM shareholder Sabras Sound, and is already being carried on the Leicester multiplex. A Plus is designed to have a strong appeal amongst young Asians, and for Nottingham will also incorporate an element of Sabras Sound's analogue output which reaches an older Asian demographic. Members considered that the services offered by NDEM would cater well for the local audience, providing programming for a wide range of age groups and interests, and enabling popular local services to be transmitted digitally.

4.   Broadening the range of local digital programme services

This is the only local multiplex available in the area, now or for the foreseeable future, apart from a limited amount of coverage overlap with the neighbouring Leicester multiplex. Therefore the 'broadening of local digital choice' criterion is effectively satisfied by default.

5.   Local support

As with previous Now Digital applications, a quantitative research survey was conducted to demonstrate the level of audience support for the proposed programme services. NDEM held a public presentation at Nottingham Forest Football Club to which local opinion-formers, advertisers, agencies and local organisations were invited, and also sent out promotional literature. Members noted that the volume of letters of support obtained for this application was unimpressive.

6.   Fair and effective competition

The Authority has 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.


Copies of the non-confidential section of the application were made available for public inspection in Nottingham Central Library and at the Authority’s offices in London. A notice was issued on 18 March 2003 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:

(a)    the extent of the coverage area as proposed by the applicant;

(b)    the timetable relating to achievement of the proposed coverage area and the start of broadcast services;

(c)    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;

(c)    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;

(d)    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

(e)    cater for tastes and interests different from those already catered for by local digital programme services already provided in that area;

(f)    the extent to which the application is supported by persons living in the area; and

(g)    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 applications.


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