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North East Manchester License: Page Five

Page Five

Article

Date Added

31

Radio Authority Appraisal of NE Greater Manchester Award: 15/9/98

21/9/98

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The Radio Authority on September 15th published their appraisal of the license awards, first from their press release:

RADIO AUTHORITY PUBLISHES APPRAISAL OF NORTH/EAST GREATER MANCHESTER LICENCE AWARD

The Radio Authority has announced today (14 September) the details of its appraisal of the North/East Greater Manchester license award made to Tower FM and conditionally awarded to Oldham FM.

This is the first time the Authority has published such an appraisal. In June 1998, in order to enhance transparency and openness in the Authority's proceedings, Members of the Authority decided in principle that they wished to make information public on why they have chosen successful applicants for licences.

The full appraisal is as follows:

LOCAL LICENCE AWARDS:
NORTH/EAST GREATER MANCHESTER
APPRAISAL OF WINNING APPLICANTS


Applications were invited on 16 January 1998. By the closing date of 12 May 1998, seven applications were received, as follows:

For Bolton and Bury
Bfm
Tower FM
Variety FM

For Tameside
Knight FM
Tame FM

For Oldham
Oldham FM

For Rochdale
Pioneer FM

Small-scale licences ("sallies") were awarded to each of Tower FM and Oldham FM, to run for eight years from the date the services commence broadcasting.

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, 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 (section 85(3) of the
       Act).

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 license are :

    a: the ability of each applicant to maintain the proposed service
       throughout the license 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 or locality; and

    d: the extent to which any application is supported by persons
       living in that area or locality.

While the requirements of sections 85 and 105 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 will invariably form the basis of all awards, each license 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.

Small-scale 'alternative location' local licences ("sallies") were introduced in 1996. The availability of one or more frequencies for a service (or services) for any locality within a wider area is advertised, without specifying which particular locality the license must serve. It is up to applicants to decide which locality they wish to serve. The Authority will award the licences to what are, in its view, the strongest individual applications put forward. This approach was designed to increase the opportunities for prospective operators of small-scale services to submit license applications.

When it advertised the availability of one or more small-scale service licences within North/East Greater Manchester, the Authority invited public comment on the local radio needs of listeners in this area, and the type of programme service required. Copies of the non-confidential sections of the license applications received were made available for public inspection at the Authority's office in London and at public libraries in Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and Ashton-under-Lyne. A notice was issued on 16 January 1998 inviting public comments on the applications. All replies were taken into account by the Authority when reaching its determinations.

All seven 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 (most recently amended in May 1997) and the coverage brief for these licences, issued at the date of the license advertisement. The applicants were invited to respond to written questions on programming, finance, audience and support. Telephone interviews were conducted on the composition and history of the applicant groups.


EXISTING COMMERCIAL RADIO PROVISION

There are four existing ILR services which broadcast to Greater Manchester: Key 103, Galaxy 102, Piccadilly Radio 1152 AM and 1458 Lite AM. Key 103 offers current and recent chart music, Piccadilly 1152 AM offers "golden oldies", Lite AM is an easy listening service and Galaxy 102 plays dance music. In addition there are two North West regional services, namely Jazz FM 100.4 and the newly licensed Century 105 which will offer a mix of adult contemporary music with a high speech content. The East Lancashire ILR service, Asian Sound Radio, is also available in North East Manchester


CONSIDERATION OF WINNING APPLICATIONS

TOWER FM

The Authority considered that the applicant consists of a solid, dedicated team combining considerable local RSL experience with the professional backing of an existing radio operator, The Radio Partnership. The board represents a combination of both members of the local business community and individuals with relevant radio backgrounds. Overall, the applicant presented a sound business proposition involving investors who bring a high level of experience gained within similar markets, thereby providing credibility to the group's financial assumptions.

In programming terms, the target age range of 25-54 will be served with a mix of 1960s-1990s classic hits and local speech elements, adding to listener choice. Members considered that the combination of speech elements, containing local news, weather, traffic, and 'what's on', supplemented by competitions, financial news, 'crimestoppers', a job spotlight as well as studio guests and interviews, was likely to provide a popular and locally relevant service, meeting the needs of listeners.

Tower's research provided evidence of demand for popular music from the 60s to the 90s, and local news and information features, as reflected in their programming proposals. This was bolstered by considerable local support arising from both specific publicity efforts and the group's RSL activity.


OLDHAM FM

Another long-established RSL group forms the core of Oldham FM, with corporate partners UK Radio Developments and local newspaper publisher Hirst, Kidd and Rennie. The proposed 15% shareholder, the Oldham Chamber of Commerce, agreed to reduce its shareholding to the maximum allowed of 5% following the Authority's determination that it is a publicly funded body. Members were impressed with the applicant's board of directors who combine strong local knowledge, business experience, and a solid understanding of the media generally, and radio in particular. The applicant submitted a sound business plan, based on prudent income and expenditure forecasts.

Research conducted on behalf of the applicant provided evidence of demand for the proposed service of 70s-90s hit music combined with a comprehensive local information service. This was supplemented by documentary evidence of substantial local support.

Members considered that the programming submission reflected a good understanding of the local population and market by including a sensible and popular music format with a strong community focus to the speech features, thereby broadening choice. These features include an hour-long news and entertainment-based community programme each weekday lunchtime, hourly community noticeboards, business news, sport and an advice line, which Members felt would enhance the local relevance of the service. Proposals for local news suggested a good quality of output, as news will be produced by a well-supported team of three with access to the resources of the local newspaper, the Oldham Chronicle.

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At this stage, the award of the licences I have decided not to update these pages any more - there seems little point in duplicating the stations own publicity material! Tower FM launched on 20th March 1999 on 107.4FM and Oldham FM Ltd. launched under the name 'The Revolution' on 30th August 1999 on 96.2FM.