Nation Radio (South Wales)

  • Start: 18 November 2009
  • Status: Closed
  • End: 30 December 2009

Summary

Nation Radio, which is an FM local commercial radio service in the South Wales region, applied to Ofcom to change its Format (the type of programme service it is required to provide) from primarily an 'alternative rock' music station to a "new music station" playing primarily 'modern rock' music.

As it was considered that this proposal would represent a substantial change to the nature of the Nation Radio service, Ofcom was required by statute to hold a public consultation and seek the views of interested parties regarding the proposed Format change.

At its meeting on 23 February, Ofcom's Radio Licensing Committee (RLC) considered and approved amended wording to the Format change request submitted by Nation Radio.

Having considered the original request and the amended wording, the responses to the consultation, the relevant statutory criteria and Ofcom's Format change policy, the RLC approved the request. The RLC felt that acceptance of the new wording would see a specialist alternative rock station replaced by a specialist modern rock station likely to have wider appeal, still aimed at the underserved rock market, but retaining its distinctiveness from other services in the area. The amended wording that was approved by the RLC is:

A PREDOMINANTLY MODERN ROCK STATION FOR 15-34 YEAR-OLDS. OTHER COMPATIBLE GENRES WILL COMPLEMENT THE OUTPUT, WHICH WILL ALSO INCLUDE COVERAGE OF LOCAL ARTISTS

Background

The Nation Radio request to move from being an "alternative rock" station to be a "new music station" and play "predominantly modern rock with other genres of appeal" -- was the subject of a four-week consultation ending on December 30 2009.

Ofcom has the ability to consent to such changes under conditions included in the Nation Radio licence, in accordance with Section 106 (1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 ("the 1990 Act") if it is satisfied that at least one of the following criteria is satisfied:

a. the departure would not substantially alter the character of the service;
b. the change would not narrow the range of programmes available in the area by way of relevant independent radio services;
c. the change would be conducive to the maintenance or promotion of fair and effective competition; or
d. there is evidence that, amongst persons living in the affected areas, there is a significant demand for, or significant support for, the change.

In this case, Ofcom regarded the proposed changes to the character of service as substantial, so criterion (a) above was not satisfied and the change could only be approved if one of criteria (b) to (d) was met. In these circumstances, Ofcom was required to carry out a public consultation (under section 106ZA of the 1990 Act).

Where one of these criteria is met, Ofcom has discretion to agree a Format change request. It has published a Format change policy setting out factors it may take into account in deciding whether to do so.

The Consultation

The consultation attracted three responses. Two were responses from large groups (GMG and UTV), both of which own competitor stations in the area. A third response was from an individual who opposed the change. The responses are all non-confidential.

GMG said it had some sympathy with a request to change the Nation Format, but felt Nation Radio had not spelled out in enough detail exactly the sort of station that would be created if Ofcom agreed to the change. UTV felt that Ofcom could not agree to the change as none of the statutory criteria which must be taken into account were satisfied, and that Nation would effectively become too mainstream for a service licensed as a specialist rock music station

The third respondent opposed the change predominantly because of "lack of definition."

The Decision

Following the consultation responses and further discussions with Ofcom, Nation Radio clarified its request, and in particular confirmed that it was not seeking to move to a more 'mainstream' Format.

The request went first to Ofcom's Content Board for advice, and then to the RLC. Both took the view that the request should be granted, but only on the basis of amended wording that clarified that the station was still a rock station, and would ensure the station retained its distinctiveness from other services in the area.

In reaching its decision, the RLC took the view that:

  • the criterion in section 106(1A)(b) was met: the change would not narrow the range of programmes available in the area by way of relevant independent radio services
  • in terms of the extent of the impact of the change on the character of the service, the station would still be rock-oriented and the revised Format wording meant that the change would bring flexibility rather than a different direction.
  • as for the time elapsed since the licence was awarded, the licence was awarded three years ago, and this was not seen as a significant issue
  • the original award was for an alternative rock station. The new Format would still require the provision of a specialist rock music service, and one which is likely to be of appeal to the same listenership.
  • the change would not affect the amount of local material included in the service.
  • the consultation only solicited one listener response, which it was felt was addressed by the revised wording.
  • the amended wording prevents Format 'creep' towards mainstream music, which the RLC noted was a concern expressed by UTV and GMG in relation to the wording originally proposed.
  • the RLC did not have sufficient information to decide whether the statutory criteria in section 106(1A)(c) or (d) were met. However, only one of the statutory criterion need be met, and the RLC took the view that the criterion in section 106(1A)(b) was met

In summary, in agreeing to the request with amended wording the RLC concluded that the Format change for Nation Radio would not alter the fact that it is a regional station which has been licensed to broadcast to a clearly under-served demographic with specialist music.

In implementing the revised Format, Nation Radio will be expected to focus primarily on credible rock music; it is not expected that genres such as RnB, dance or "manufactured" pop will be heard.

The RLC therefore decided that Nation Radio be allowed to change its Format as follows:

A PREDOMINANTLY MODERN ROCK STATION FOR 15-34 YEAR-OLDS. OTHER COMPATIBLE GENRES WILL COMPLEMENT THE OUTPUT, WHICH WILL ALSO INCLUDE COVERAGE OF LOCAL ARTISTS

Main documents

nationcym.pdf
(PDF File, 195.5 KB)
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Supporting documents

gmg.pdf
(PDF File, 99.1 KB)
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UTV.pdf
(PDF File, 188.7 KB)
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Devlin.pdf
(PDF File, 72.9 KB)
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Nation_Radio.pdf
(PDF File, 175.0 KB)
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Supporting documents

nationradio.pdf
(PDF File, 119.1 KB)
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