The FM local commercial radio licence for the city of Belfast and the surrounding area was awarded on 7 March 2005 to Ulster Television plc (?U105″).
Today Ofcom announce why the licence was awarded.
When the Belfast licence was advertised last September, we stated that, given the number and type of services already available in the area to be served by this licence , Ofcom would be likely to place particular importance on criterion (c) ? the extent to which a proposed service would broaden the range of programmes available by way of local (commercial) services in the area, and would cater for tastes and interests different from those already catered for ? when it comes to consider the applications it receives for this licence.
In respect of Section 105 (d) – the extent to which there is evidence of local demand or support for a proposed service – we said that we would be likely to attach greater weight to robust and meaningful evidence of demand as demonstrated by findings from research undertaken in the licence area and, if appropriate, detailed analysis of the existing market, than to evidence of local support as demonstrated by letters from potential listeners and/or advertisers.
We also noted that this guidance is subject to discretion, and that Ofcom will always consider each of the four statutory criteria when making a licence award.
In considering the applications in relation to Section 105(a), Ofcom’s Radio Licensing Committee ( RLC ) considered that the combination of demonstrable local radio expertise and the 100% ownership by UTV (the local television franchisee) would place U105 in a strong position to challenge existing stations in this market and establish a secure financial base. U105 would have access to significant resources as well as enhanced opportunities to market itself to listeners and advertisers alike. The group offered sensible audience forecasts and fully benchmarked revenue expectations accompanied by suitable justifications.
In relation to Sections 105 (b) and (c), RLC members felt that U105?s decision to target listeners aged 45 and over, a demographic which the applicant clearly demonstrated was underserved by existing commericial services, would enable U105 to broaden choice. The Committee members noted the comprehensive news provision proposed (local news will run until midnight throughout the week) and also noted that U105 would be able to draw upon the resources of an established local broadcaster which should help to enhance its ability to maintain the service proposed. The Committee felt that the Format offered a workable commitment to such material and recognised that U105 was proposing to include a greater proportion of speech than is currently required of any of the three existing local commercial services. U105?s wide mix of older popular music (material over ten years old will comprise at least two thirds of output), which will include ?soft rock? and ?country? (classic and new), would be likely to have broad appeal and the RLC also felt that the commitment to feature Irish artists throughout the schedule as well as the promise of specialist programming would enhance the ability of the service to cater for local tastes and interests and to broaden choice.
With regard to Section 105(d), the RLC felt that U105 demonstrated a market gap and provided strong evidence of likely demand for its format and programming proposals, by way of market research.
The RLC considered that, in relation to Section 314 of the Communications Act 2003, U105?s programming proposals contained a suitable proportion of local material and locally-made programmes. All of its output will be locally produced.