Regulator Ofcom is proposing to change the Format of Real Radio to make sure news is treated as an important ingredient, pending change of ownership.
In its review of the brand, which it is obliged to do when a station changes owners, Ofcom considers that one of the likely effects of the change of control would be a reduced focus on news provision.
Ofcom says any changes to news output would be prejudicial to the character of the service, so it is therefore required to vary the licence with a view to ensuring this output survives.
For the North West and Yorkshire, Ofcom says “We propose to vary the licence under section 356 to add “news” into Real’s Character of Service as an “important ingredient”.
For the North East, Scotland and Wales, “sport” is also treated with the same proposal after noticing the recent removal of the Football Phone-Ins.
Ofcom also looked at the general speech levels broadcast by the station, and concluded that they are at the lower end of what it would consider to be broadly acceptable in the context of the Format, and noted that it would not expect to see any significant decrease in the amount of speech being aired by the station.
In other words, Ofcom is telling Global Radio it needs to keep at least the same amount of speech as it has now once it takes control of the brand.
Global Radio supplied information for the reviews, including confidential plans for the future of the stations.
The Character of Service contained in the Format of the licence currently reads:
A FULL SERVICE ADULT CONTEMPORARY MUSIC STATION FOR THE NORTH WEST REGION, TARGETING PRIMARILY 25-54 YEAR OLDS, TREATING SPEECH, REGIONAL INFORMATION AND LISTENER INTERACTIVITY AS IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS, AND RUNNING 24-HOUR NEWS.
Following the variations Ofcom is proposing under section 356 of the Communications Act 2003, the Character of Service would read as follows:
A FULL SERVICE ADULT CONTEMPORARY MUSIC STATION FOR THE NORTH WEST REGION, TARGETING PRIMARILY 25-54 YEAR OLDS, TREATING NEWS, SPEECH, REGIONAL INFORMATION (SPORT – NE, SCOTLAND AND WALES) AND LISTENER INTERACTIVITY AS IMPORTANT INGREDIENTS, AND RUNNING 24-HOUR NEWS
Ofcom is now giving the licensee an opportunity to make representations about the variations it proposes to make to its licence, before a final decision is taken.
Ofcom also reviewed Smooth Radio and Real Radio XS with no suggested changes, but did question the amount of specialist programmes provided by Smooth Radio.
Smooth Radio is required to provide 12 hours of “identifiable specialist music programming” to be broadcast each week but Ofcom only found 10, made up of Pete Waterman’s Friday Night Fever, The Motown Show and Andy Peebles’ Soul Train.
Smooth Radio replied explaining the daily “Golden Hour”, “70s at 7” and “Double Top 20” along with regular documentaries also count as specialist, to which Ofcom has yet to respond.