A Format change to remove local speech from Swansea Bay Radio has been rejected by Ofcom as it would change the character of service.
The station, which is now broadcasting as Nation Hits, wanted to remove the requirements to be a “local speech” station with “24-hour news, information and comment”. Ofcom rejected the proposed changes on the basis that the departure from the existing Format would narrow the range of programmes available to listeners in the Swansea area by way of independent radio services.
The Character of Service (as set out in the existing published Format document for Nation Hits!) is as follows:
A LOCAL SPEECH AND MUSIC STATION FOR THE SWANSEA AREA, WITH 24-HOUR NEWS, INFORMATION AND COMMENT AIMED PRIMARILY AT THE 35+ AGE GROUP, WITH A PREDOMINATELY GOLD AND EASY LISTENING MIX OF MUSIC, REGULARLY REFLECTING WELSH CULTURE AND LANGUAGE
The new Character of Service proposed by SBR was:
A STATION FOR THE SWANSEA AREA, AIMED PRIMARILY AT THE 35+ AGE GROUP WITH A PREDOMINATELY GOLD AND EASY LISTENING MIX OF MUSIC, REGULARLY REFLECTING WELSH CULTURE AND LANGUAGE
The proposed changes were subject to a public consultation which ran for four weeks until 13 December 2012.
Ofcom received four non-confidential responses (one name withheld) to the consultation. Of these, three were against the change being permitted, arguing that the potential reduction in speech content, which would be replaced by more music, would leave listeners without provision of local information about the Swansea city area.
One of these respondents was Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for Wales (ACW). The ACW cited the reasons given by Ofcom on award of the licence in November 2005, which drew extensively on how the content proposed by SBR for the new service would broaden choice for listeners in the area, and the ACW also noted that since the launch of SBR’s service in November 2006 there had been little significant change in the nature of the radio services available in the Swansea area.
A response (name withheld) supporting the Format Change Request gave examples of the station’s current output as being agreeable, adding that “as a result of the reduced talk time, the news, weather and local guide information messages tend to stand out more and not get lost in the mess of messages.”