with RCS

Ofcom explain licence awards

Ofcom’s Radio Licensing Committee made decisions relating to a total of twenty nine applications for community radio licences at its meeting on 3 October 2005.

Eighteen community radio licences were awarded and the reasons for award in each case are summarised below. The remaining eleven applicants were not awarded a community radio licence.

All community radio services must satisfy certain ‘characteristics of service’ which are specified in Article 3 of the Community Radio Order 2004. The RLC was satisfied that each of the groups awarded a licence met these ‘characteristics of service’. In addition, each application was 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). A summary of these criteria is set out below. The key considerations in relation to these criteria which formed the basis of the RLC’s decisions to award licences to particular applicants are also set out below. Where applicable, the relevant subsection of section 105 of the BA 1990 is noted in brackets.

Finally, the RLC was satisfied that each group awarded a licence should be allowed to seek up to 50% of its annual income from the sale of advertising or programme sponsorship if it so wishes, in accordance with section 105(6) BA 1990, and that none of the new services would prejudice unduly the economic viability of any other local service (section 105(3) BA 1990).
West Yorkshire

Ten applications were received from groups in the West Yorkshire area. These were from BCB in Bradford, Phoenix Radio in Halifax, Branch FM in Dewsbury, the Indian Muslim Welfare Society in Batley, Urban Space and Paradise Radio in Wakefield, Hillcrest Community Radio and Radio Asian Fever in Leeds, Wharfedale FM in Otley and Wetherby Community Radio. The RLC had previously decided to award licences to both BCB (Bradford) and Phoenix Radio (Halifax) at its September meeting.

Further investigation into the availability of suitable FM frequencies was necessary before the remaining eight applications in this region could be considered by the RLC. Some of this work was completed in time for the RLC’s October meeting which enabled the committee to make some further decisions. As a result, one further award was made by the RLC to Radio Asian Fever (Harehills & Chapeltown, Leeds), and the committee decided not to award licences to Hillcrest Community Radio (Chapeltown, Leeds), the Indian Muslim Welfare Society (Batley), Radio Paradise (Wakefield), Urban Space (Wakefield East) and Wharfedale FM (Otley, West Yorkshire).

Ofcom has under consideration two more applications from the West Yorkshire area (from Branch FM in Dewsbury and from Wetherby Community Radio). Decisions on these applications will be made once further work on the availability of suitable FM frequencies in the area has been completed.

Radio Asian Fever (Harehills & Chapeltown, Leeds): This group will serve the South Asian communities of Leeds; those with Pakistani, Kashmiri, Indian (Sikh and Hindu) and Bengali backgrounds (1e). Its members have relevant broadcasting experience (1a) and their application demonstrates strong community links and support (1d). Their proposals were strong in relation to ensuring access to, and training in, the use of their broadcasting facilities (1g).
Greater Manchester and surrounding areas

Nine applications were received from groups in and around the Greater Manchester area. These were from Chorley FM, Crescent Community Radio (Rochdale), Salford Community Radio, Oldham Community Radio, Tameside Community Radio, ALL FM (Inner South Manchester), Wythenshawe FM, Pure Radio (Stockport), and Canalside Community Radio (Bollington, near Macclesfield). The RLC had previously decided to award a community radio licence to each of Chorley FM, Crescent Community Radio, ALL FM and Wythenshawe FM at its September meeting. At the same meeting, the RLC also decided not to award a licence to Canalside Community Radio in Bollington. However, further investigation into the availability of suitable FM frequencies was necessary before the remaining four applications in this region could be considered by the RLC. This work was completed prior to the RLC’s October meeting, allowing the remaining decisions to be taken. The committee decided to make the following awards:

Oldham Community Radio: A long-established and experienced group (1a) which will serve various disadvantaged communities in the Oldham area. This group is proposing to deliver a ‘streamed’ programming service which will provide a diverse range of output appropriate to the community it will serve (1b) and likely to broaden choice in terms of the range of non-BBC local radio services available locally (1c). Wide-ranging support was demonstrated in the application (1d) which was also strong in relation to the delivery of social gain (1e) and the provision of access to broadcasting facilities and training in their use (1g).

Pure Radio (Stockport, Cheshire): This station will have a particular focus on the most disadvantaged groups within the wider community. This group has relevant broadcasting experience and included directors with a wide range of community links (1a). Its proposals, which were considered to be likely to cater for the tastes and interests of the community (1b), were well supported locally (1d). Social gain objectives (1e) and proposals to ensure the group’s accountability to its community (1f) were also strong.

Salford Community Radio: Targeting residents within a 5 kilometre radius of Swinton in Salford, this group has relevant broadcasting experience and a strong, locally-based, board (1a). Proposals to cater for the tastes and interests of the target community (1b), and the level of local support for this group’s proposals were considered to be strong (1d), as were proposals for the delivery of social gain (1e), accountability to the target community (1f) and the provision of access to, and training in the use of, the group’s facilities (1g).

Tameside Community Radio: The station will provide a service for the residents of Tameside, supporting the regeneration of the area. The group can call upon relevant broadcasting and management experience (1a), and put forward programming proposals which it was considered would be likely to broaden the range of non-BBC local radio services available locally, (1c). The group was able to demonstrate local demand and support for their proposals (1d) and put forward wide-ranging plans to deliver against a variety of social gain objectives (1e). The group’s proposals to provide access to their broadcasting facilities, and training in their use, were also strong (1g).
Northern Ireland

Seven applications were received from groups in Northern Ireland. These were from, Down FM (Downpatrick, County Down), Raidi? F?ilte (Belfast), Shine FM (Banbridge, County Down), F?ile FM (West Belfast), BFBS (Lisburn, County Antrim), I?r FM (Newry, County Down), and Drive FM (Derry, County Londonderry). At its September meeting the RLC decided not to award a community radio licence to Drive FM, deferring all other decisions to a subsequent meeting in order to allow for frequency evaluation work to be completed. These investigations were completed in time to allow the committee to take final decisions in respect of the six remaining groups at its October meeting and the RLC decided to make an award in each case.

Down FM (Downpatrick, County Down): Based in the local College of Further and Higher Education, Down FM will serve the town of Downpatrick and surrounding villages. The group put forward management proposals which were considered appropriate (1a) and its service was considered likely to cater for the tastes and interests of the community (1b) and to broaden choice in terms of the range of non-BBC radio programming available locally (1c). Training objectives set out in the group’s application were considered to be a particular strength (1e and 1g).

Raidi? F?ilte (Belfast): Raidi? F?ilte intends to broadcast to the Irish language community in Belfast (1e), including those who can understand Irish or are interested in the Irish language and Gaelic culture. This group has relevant broadcasting experience (1a), which it has drawn on to help build programming proposals which will c
ater for the tastes and interests of the community to be served (1b). The group’s proposals will broaden the range of non-BBC local radio services available locally (1c) and were well supported locally (1d). Proposals to deliver against a range of social gain objectives (1e) were also strong, as were its proposals to ensure its accountability to the community (1f).

Shine FM (Banbridge County Down): Shine FM intends to broadcast to Banbridge and the surrounding areas providing a community radio service with a particular Christian ethos. This group has relevant broadcasting experience (1a), and put forward programming proposals which were considered likely to broaden choice in terms of the range of non-BBC services available locally (1c). The group was able to demonstrate considerable local support (1d), and its proposals in relation to providing services to individuals who are otherwise underserved by such services, and to aiding the better understanding of the particular community (both 1e) were considered appropriate.

F?ile FM (West Belfast): F?ile FM will broadcast mainly to the West Belfast community. It will reflect the diversity, cultural, political, historical and social experiences of the community which it intends to serve. The group has both broadcasting experience (1a) and well-established links with its community which allowed it to demonstrate a high level of support for its proposals (1d). The group’s proposals for the delivery of social gain were also considered appropriate (1e).

BFBS Lisburn: The objective of this station will be to provide a service to forces personnel and their families and associated civilians living and working in the Lisburn community. A long-established broadcasting organisation with a secured funding base (1a), this group also has a very clear understanding of the needs of its target community which has allowed them to set out appropriate programming proposals (1b). Proposals for the delivery of various social gain objectives (1e) and mechanisms to ensure accountability (1f) were also strong.

I?r FM (Newry, County Down): Operated by an established local community organisation with relevant broadcasting experience (1a), I?r FM will serve the people of Newry City. The service was considered likely to cater for the tastes and interests of this community (1b), and the group was able to demonstrate considerable local support for its proposals (1d). Efforts by the group to ensure its accountability to the community were considered to be both practical and appropriate (1f).
West Midlands

Ten applications were received from groups seeking to provide community radio services in the West Midlands area. These were from Aston FM (Aston, North Central Birmingham), Radio Awaam (Small Heath, Birmingham), The ‘Bridge (Stourbridge), CVCR (North-East Birmingham), New Style Radio (Winson Green, North-West Birmingham), The Public (West Bromwich), Punjabi Radio (Smethwick & Wolverhampton), Unity FM (East Birmingham), Walsall FM, and WCR (Wolverhampton). At its October meeting, the RLC decided not to award community radio licences to three groups Radio Awaam, Punjabi Radio and Walsall FM. The committee also decided to award licences to the remaining seven groups:

Aston FM (Aston, North Central Birmingham): Aston FM will serve the various communities in the Aston area. The group has brought in external broadcasting expertise to support its well-funded proposals (1a) which were considered appropriate for the target communities involved (1b). Social gain (1e) and accountability (1f) criteria were well thought through.

The ‘Bridge (Stourbridge): The service, from a group with relevant broadcasting experience (1a) is intended to serve the community of Stourbridge. Its proposals were well supported locally (1d) and included a broad range of social gain objectives (1e). Measures to ensure the group’s accountability to its target community were strong (1f).

CVCR (North-East Birmingham): This station will provide a service to deprived communities in the north-east Birmingham area. The group has considerable broadcasting experience (1a) and well-developed programming proposals (1b), which were well supported locally (1d). The group’s application was also strong in relation to training (1e & 1g) and in relation to its proposals to ensure accountability to the target community (1f).

New Style Radio (Winson Green, North-West Birmingham): A station for people of Afro Caribbean heritage and its derivatives living in Winson Green and the surrounding areas of Birmingham, this group is both well-funded and particularly strong in terms of broadcasting experience (1a). Its proposals were particularly strong in relation to serving the tastes and interests of the target community (1b) and in terms of broadening choice in terms of non-BBC local radio services available in the area (1c). Proposals to deliver against mandatory and additional social gain criteria were also strong (1e) as were practical measures to ensure access to broadcasting facilities and training in their use (1g).

The Public (West Bromwich): Public FM will serve West Bromwich and the culturally diverse surrounding areas. The body behind these proposals has considerable experience of running community-based projects in the locality (1a) and was able to demonstrate considerable support for its proposals (1d). A particular strength of this applicant was its proposals to ensure its accountability to the target community (1f).

Unity FM (East Birmingham): This service will be for Muslims in east Birmingham, including Small Heath and surrounding areas. Sensible management proposals, together with some previous broadcasting experience (1a) support programming proposals which would cater for the tastes and interests of the target community (1b). This group’s proposals were well supported (1d), and its social gain objectives were both diverse and generally well-rounded (1e).

WCR (Wolverhampton): A strong application from a well established group with considerable broadcasting experience and well developed structures (1a), this service will target people living within a 5km radius of the centre of the City of Wolverhampton, particularly the most deprived areas to the east (1e). Programming proposals put forward by this group were considered to be likely to cater for the tastes and interests of the target community (1b), and the group was able to demonstrate considerable demand and support for its plans (1d). The group’s wide-ranging proposals for the delivery of various forms of social gain were also considered to be particularly strong (1e).
Other areas

In addition to the above, the RLC also took decisions not to award a licence to three other groups. These were BRFM (Blaenau Gwent, South Wales), Drystone Radio (Craven, Yorkshire Dales), and LVBC (Deal & Sandwich, East Kent).

Each community radio service will be licensed on FM for a five-year period.

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:

www.ofcom.org.uk/radio/ifi/rl/commun_radio/
Statutory requirements relating to community radio licensing

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. 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 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.

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

* not to grant a community radio licence which would overlap with a commercial radio service serving no more than 50,000 persons of 15 years or older;
* to prohibit paid advertising and sponsorship of programmes in respect of any community radio service where that service overlaps with any other local radio service serving between 50,000 and 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.

Ofcom is also prohibited, by subsection 2 of section 105, from granting a licence to any applicant who proposes to receive from any one person (or company) more than 50% of its annual funding.
Process for assessment of applications

On 1 September 2004 Ofcom invited applications for licences to provide community radio services in most parts of the United Kingdom. These licences were offered for the provision of services on either the FM (VHF) or AM (medium wave) wavebands. The invitation did not specify the locations of services, but left it for applicants to decide where they wanted to be located.

Ofcom received 194 applications, the non-confidential sections of which were made available for public scrutiny on the Ofcom website.

Given the large number of applications received for community radio licences, Ofcom decided to assess them in order of priority by first considering applications in areas where the 14 pilot community radio (formerly known as ‘Access Radio’) stations are currently broadcasting, before moving on to look at applications for areas not involved in the pilot scheme. Ofcom expects to complete this round of the community radio awards process by the end of 2005.

The membership of the RLC for the licence awards and non-awards detailed above was as follows:

Kip Meek, Chief Policy Partner (Chair)
Peter Bury, Director of Strategic Resources, Competition and Markets
Peter Davies, Director, Radio & Multimedia
Pam Giddy, Content Board Member
Matthew MacIver, Content Board member for Scotland
Neil Stock, Head of Radio Planning & Licensing

A summary and assessment of each application was presented to the RLC at its meeting on 3 October 2005. These papers summarised the proposals put forward by the applicants as they relate to the statutory criteria, and highlighted any issues of relevance under those criteria.

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