Eagle Extra: Request to change Format

  • Start: 15 September 2014
  • Status: Statement published
  • End: 13 October 2014

A request from Eagle Radio Limited, the holder of an AM local commercial radio licence for the Surrey and North East Hampshire area, to change the Format of Eagle Extra was discussed by Ofcom's Broadcast Licensing Committee (BLC) at its meeting on 11 November 2014. The BLC approved the change.

The existing Character of Service (as set out in Eagle Extra’s published Format document) is:

A LOCAL MUSIC AND INFORMATION STATION FOR ADULTS. DAYTIME MUSIC WILL FEATURE MELODIC HITS FROM THE LAST FIVE DECADES. COMMUNITY PROGRAMMING WILL FEATURE IN THE EVENINGS AND AT WEEKENDS. EVENINGS AND WEEKENDS MAY ALSO INCLUDE SPECIALIST MUSIC SHOWS

The new Character of Service proposed was:

A FULL SERVICE OF SPEECH AND MUSIC WHICH REFLECTS AND PROCLAIMS THE WORSHIP, THOUGHT AND ACTION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH

Ofcom may consent to a departure from the character of the licensed service (a “Format change”) in accordance with section 106 (1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 only if it is satisfied in relation to at least one of the following criteria:

a. The Format change would not substantially alter the character of the service (section 106(1A)(a)); 
b. The Format change would not narrow the range of programmes available in the area by way of relevant independent radio services (section 106(1A)(b)); 
c. The Format change would be conducive to the maintenance or promotion of fair and effective competition in that area (section 106(1A)(c)); or 
d. There is evidence that, amongst persons living in the affected areas, there is a significant demand for, or significant support for, the Format change (section 106(1A)(d)); 
e. That the change would result from programmes in the licensed service ceasing to be made at premises in the area, or those programmes would continue to be made wholly or partly at premises within an area approved by Ofcom (section 106(1A)(e)).

Under section 106ZA of the Broadcasting Act 1990, a change that is not considered by Ofcom to satisfy the first or last of these criteria (i.e. a change that Ofcom considers would or could substantially alter the character of the service, or does not relate to the origin of locally-made programmes) must, if it is to be considered further under any of the other three criteria, be consulted upon.

On the basis that the request entailed a change to almost every aspect of the Format, Ofcom determined that it would substantially alter the character of the station’s existing service. In addition, the request was not for programmes to be made at premises within an area approved by Ofcom. In line with statute, the proposed change was therefore subject to a public consultation, which ran for four weeks until 13 October 2014.

We received eight responses to the consultation. Six respondents opposed the change and two supported the change.

The responses may be found, along with the consultation document, at: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/eagle/?showResponses=true Even if Ofcom is satisfied that the proposed change would meet one of the statutory criteria, Ofcom still has discretion as to whether to agree to the change. Ofcom has published guidance about how it generally expects to exercise its discretion. This guidance contains the following criteria:

  • The extent of the impact of the change on the Character of Service
  • The time elapsed since the licence was awarded
  • Considerations taken into account in making the original award
  • The views of listeners and stakeholders
  • The avoidance of ‘Format creep’
  • Whether the station broadcasts on AM or FM
  • Ofcom’s localness guidance

Following the consultation, the BLC examined the Format Change Request for Eagle Extra and first considered whether it was satisfied in relation to any of the three remaining statutory criteria (i.e. section 106(1A)(b), (c) or (d)). The Committee was of the view that the change requested by Eagle Extra would not narrow the range of programmes available by way of local (analogue) services in the area (section 106(1A)(b)), on the basis that the replacement of the current Eagle Extra service with Premier Christian Radio would result in one distinctive service in the market being replaced with another, arguably even more distinctive, service. In this context, the BLC noted that Eagle Extra’s ‘sister’ FM service, Eagle Radio, is licensed to provide locally-oriented content in this area, and there are no other existing services offering the same type of content as Premier Christian Radio. As such, the BLC considered that if the change was to be approved the range of programmes available by way of local analogue services in the Surrey and North East Hampshire area would at the very least be maintained, if not broadened, but certainly not narrowed.

Having been satisfied in relation to one of the relevant statutory criteria, the Committee then considered this request under Ofcom's policy criteria. The BLC concluded that the request was consistent with Ofcom’s policy which states that changes, including substantial changes, to AM station Formats will be more willingly agreed than changes to FM station Formats to mitigate for the technical disadvantages of medium wave transmission. In addition, the BLC was satisfied that the proposal to remove all of the current obligations to provide locally-made programmes and local news was consistent with Ofcom’s published localness guidance, in which it is stated that local AM stations generally need not produce locally-made programmes nor broadcast local material.

The BLC recognised that the proposed change was not supported by some listeners to the existing Eagle Extra service (six of whom responded to the consultation), and noted that in some parts of the local area the loss of local content may be felt more keenly as the other locally-oriented service, Eagle Radio, is not available there. However, the Committee was of the view that the level of opposition to the change was not of such a degree that these concerns should outweigh the reasons for agreeing the change set out above.

In sum, therefore, the BLC agreed this Format change request because it was satisfied in relation to one of the relevant statutory criteria, and for the two policy reasons set out above.

The new Format for Eagle Extra will read as follows:

A FULL SERVICE OF SPEECH AND MUSIC WHICH REFLECTS AND PROCLAIMS THE WORSHIP, THOUGHT AND ACTION OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH


Main documents

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Responses

Responder name Type
1._Name_withheld.pdf (PDF File, 8.4 KB) Individual
2._Name_withheld.pdf (PDF File, 8.6 KB) Individual
3._Name_withheld.pdf (PDF File, 9.2 KB) Individual
4._Name_withheld.pdf (PDF File, 8.7 KB) Individual
5._Name_withheld.pdf (PDF File, 8.3 KB) Individual
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