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Two community radio licence awards: October 2013

Ofcom's Broadcast Licensing Committee ('BLC') awarded two community radio licences on 22 October 2013. Three other applicants were not awarded a licence at the same meeting.

All community radio services must satisfy certain 'characteristics of service' which are specified in Article 3 of the Community Radio Order 2004. The BLC was satisfied that the applicants awarded licences on 22 October 2013 met these 'characteristics of service'. In addition, the applications were considered having regard to the criteria set out in section 105 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 ('BA 1990') (as modified by the Community Radio Order 2004, and further modified by the Community Radio (Amendment) Order 2010). A summary of these criteria is set out below. The key considerations in relation to these criteria, which formed the basis of the BLC's decision to award licences, are also set out below. Where applicable, the relevant subsection of section 105(1) of the BA 1990 is noted in brackets. (Please see specific community radio licence award criteria, set out below, for full details of each subsection.)

Applicants awarded a licence

Ofcom's BLC made licence awards to:

  • Eden FM (Eden FM Radio Ltd.), Penrith and surrounding villages, Cumbria.
  • Dales Radio (Dales Radio Ltd.), Yorkshire Dales

These services will each be licensed for a period of five years from the date of their launch.

The BLC was satisfied that the new services would not prejudice unduly the economic viability of any other local service (section 105(3) of the BA 1990).

Eden FM

Eden FM will serve the people of Penrith and the surrounding villages. The proposed audience target has a strong local focus aimed at strengthening community ties in the rural community of Penrith and its surrounding villages (1e). By having a wide audience target, the proposed programme service should cater for a broad variety of age groups (1b) with particular focus on local tastes in order to reflect the community interests making it distinct from existing services (1c). The applicant group is comprised of people with good experience in broadcasting and local business with some additional technical skills (1a). It provided good evidence of local demand and support for the service, as well as existing links with local organisations and events (1d).

Dales Radio

Dales Radio will serve the towns and villages within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The members of the group have extensive experience of providing a local radio service in the area (1a), and it is proposing a Dales-focused service which would be live at key times (1b). The service would be available in areas which do not currently receive any existing local radio service (1c and 1e), and the group provided evidence of demand and support from a range of local organisations and individuals (1d).

Statutory requirements relating to community radio licensing

The following pages set out the statutory requirements relating to community radio licensing, and details of the licensing process. Further information about these, and detailed information relating to community radio, can be found at:
licensing.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/radio/community/thirdround/notesofguidance.pdf

In carrying out all of its functions, Ofcom is required to have regard to the general duties set out in section 3 of the Communications Act 2003. In addition, under section 85(2)(b) BA 1990, it is the duty of Ofcom to do all that it can to secure the provision within the UK of a range and diversity of local radio services.

The characteristics of a community radio service

In respect of the licensing of community radio services in particular, all community radio licensees must satisfy 'characteristics of service' requirements which are specified in Article 3 of the Community Radio Order 2004. The characteristics of community radio services are:

  • That they are local services provided primarily for the good of members of the public, or of particular communities, and in order to deliver social gain, rather than primarily for commercial reasons or for the financial or other material gain of the individuals involved in providing the service;
  • That the service is intended primarily to serve one or more communities (whether or not it also serves other members of the public);
  • That the person providing the service does not do so in order to make a financial profit by so doing, and uses any profit that is produced in the provision of the service wholly and exclusively for securing or improving the future provision of the service, or for the delivery of social gain to members of the public or the community that the service is intended to serve;
  • That members of the community it is intended to serve are given opportunities to participate in the operation and management of the service;
  • That, in respect of the provision of that service, the person providing the service makes himself accountable to the community that the service is intended to serve.

Article 2 of the Community Radio Order 2004 includes four mandatory “social gain” objectives. “Social gain” means the achievement, in respect of individuals or groups of individuals in the community that the service is intended to serve, or in respect of other members of the public, of the following objectives:

  • the provision of sound broadcasting services to individuals who are otherwise underserved by such services,
  • the facilitation of discussion and the expression of opinion,
  • the provision (whether by means of programmes included in the service or otherwise) of education or training to individuals not employed by the person providing the service, and
  • the better understanding of the particular community and the strengthening of links within it.

Article 2 also includes a number of other objectives of a social nature which may be considered to represent "social gain".

Specific community radio licence award criteria

There are seven specific selection criteria set out in section 105(1) BA 1990 that Ofcom must have regard to when considering whether to make a community radio licence award. In summary these are:

  • The ability of each applicant to maintain its proposed service over the licence period (section 105(1)(a));
  • The applicant's ability to cater for the tastes and interests of the target community (section 105(1)(b));
  • The extent to which each applicant would broaden the range of local radio services available in the area, and have a content distinct from those services (section 105(1)(c));
  • The extent to which there is evidence of local demand or support for a proposed service (section 105(1)(d));
  • The extent to which the service would deliver social gain benefits to the public or relevant community (section 105(1)(e));
  • Provisions for making the operator of service accountable to the relevant community (section 105(1)(f));
  • Provisions for allowing access by members of the public or the relevant community to the station facilities, and the provision of training in the use of those facilities (section 105(1)(g)).

Considering whether, or to whom (and on what conditions), to grant a community radio licence, Ofcom must also have regard to the need to ensure that any service provided under that licence does not prejudice unduly the economic viability of any other local commercial radio service.

Sections 105(4) to (6) BA 1990 require Ofcom:

  • to prohibit paid advertising and sponsorship of programmes in respect of any community radio service where that service overlaps with any commercial radio service serving no more than 150,000 persons of 15 years or older; and
  • in all other cases, to prohibit any community radio service from receiving an appropriate proportion (at least 50%) of relevant income from paid advertising and sponsorship of programmes.

For the avoidance of doubt, programme sponsorship includes station or channel sponsorship, and commercial communications.

Process for assessment of applications

On 2 October 2012 Ofcom invited applications for licences to provide community radio services in locations in Northeast England, Cumbria and North Yorkshire. Licences were offered for the provision of services on either the FM (VHF) or AM (medium wave) wavebands (see Ofcom's 'invitation to apply' on our website at
http://licensing.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/radio/community/thirdround/Invitation_NE_Cumbria_NYorks.pdf ).

Ofcom received 13 applications for community radio services at locations in this region by the closing date (29 January 2013). The non-confidential sections of all applications were made available for public scrutiny on our website.

The membership of the BLC for the licence awards made on 22 October 2013 was as follows:

Chair: Tim Gardam, Board Member and Chairman of the Content Board
Glyn Mathias, Content Board Member for Wales
Peter Davies, Director, Content Policy
Tony Close, Director, Content Standards, Licensing & Enforcement
Neil Stock, Head of Radio Policy

An assessment of each application was presented to the BLC, along with the applicant's draft key commitments. The assessment analysed the proposals put forward by the applicant as they relate to the statutory criteria, and highlighted any issues of relevance under those criteria.

 

November 2013

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