A request from Celador Radio Ltd to change the published Format of Star Radio Bristol was discussed by the Radio Licensing Committee at its meeting on 13 December 2010.
The current Character of Service of the station is as follows:
A SOULFUL, ADULT CONTEMPORARY MUSIC BASED SERVICE, AIMED PRIMARILY AT 30 TO 50 YEAR-OLD BRISTOLIANS WITH LOCAL NEWS AND INFORMATION, WHICH ALSO DIRECTLY INVOLVES THE MULTICULTURAL COMMUNITIES THROUGH SPECIFIC PROGRAMMING.
Celador's request was to change the station's core music policy from 'soulful' Adult Contemporary to Easy Listening; to increase the age of the stations target demographic from 30-50 year-olds to the over-40s, and to remove the current requirement to broadcast "specific programming" directly involving Bristols multicultural communities. The new Character of Service proposed by Celador was as follows:
AN EASY LISTENING MUSIC-BASED SERVICE WITH LOCAL NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR LISTENERS AGED 40+ IN BRISTOL AND THE SURROUNDING AREA.
Ofcom determined that the request, if approved, would result in a substantial change to the character of the service, and therefore in accordance with the statutory requirements the proposed changes were subject to a public consultation.
There were eight responses to the consultation. None of the respondents supported the change request, although one respondent did not comment on the change request but was purely concerned with its perception that Celador was seeking, by means of this Format Change Request, to extend Star Radios transmission area (which is not the case). Some of the respondents were particularly concerned about the potential loss of multicultural programming on the station.
Non-confidential responses may be found, along with the consultation document, at: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/star-radio/
Ofcom has the ability to consent to Format changes under conditions included in each local analogue commercial radio licence, in accordance with Section 106 (1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1990, if it is satisfied that at least one of the following criteria is met:
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 or 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.
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.
The Committee was satisfied that the proposed change of Format would not narrow the range of programmes in the Bristol area by way of relevant independent radio services (section 106(1A)(b)) as it was felt that the proposed changes to the stations core music policy and target demographic would not reduce - and may even extend - listener choice in the Bristol market.
This is because:
Regarding the proposed removal of the multicultural programming requirement, the Committee accepted Celador's argument that the recent advent of two community radio services in Bristol (Bristol Community FM and Ujima Radio), both of which provide multicultural programming on a much more extensive basis than Star's existing Format requires, means that the range of programmes available to listeners in the area would not be narrowed in this respect. While the Committee recognised that the two community services do not replicate the entire transmission area of Star Radio, it also noted that the community radio services are located in the central and St. Pauls area of Bristol where the populations of Bristols different ethnic minority communities are most concentrated.
At a practical level, the Committee also took into account that, if it was agreeing to the proposed change to the station's core music policy, it would be significantly more challenging to provide specific multicultural programmes on an Easy Listening station for over-40s than in the context of Star's existing Rhythmic AC format.
Having determined that the request satisfied one of the statutory criteria set out in section 106(1A) of the Broadcasting Act 1990, the Committee also agreed that there were no further, discretionary, grounds on which to refuse the request.