Ofcom has agreed to a Format change request from Heartland FM in Perth and Wave 102 in Dundee to share all local programmes and co-locate.
The decision was made after a public consultation, in which 100% of the responses opposed to the changes.
As a result of these decisions, the Perth licence will no longer co-locate and share programming with the Pitlochry & Aberfeldy licence. Instead, the Perth licence will co-locate and share programming with the Dundee licence.
In addition, the Perth licensee will be required to broadcast a considerably higher number of local news bulletins each day than is the case at present. Heartland FM in Pitlochry & Aberfeldy will continue as a stand-alone service run mostly by volunteers.
Ofcom said the changes would substantially alter the character of the Perth service in particular, and ran a two week consultation on the request. Ten responses were made.
New Wave Media (which owns Wave 102) Managing Director Adam Findlay said: “we are delighted to have this agreement approved by Ofcom and we very much look forward to working with Heartland Radio. This is good news for both Wave 102 and Heartland radio advertisers and great news for listeners which will see an increased level of local news for Perth and Perthshire as we introduce an hourly news bulletin with increased news and features for Perth and the surrounding area”.
The Chairman of Heartland Radio Graham Higgins said “the prospect of working with Wave 102 is very exciting which will help secure the future of Heartland Radio and see it continue to be the market leading radio station for North Perthshire super serving local audiences with our mix of talented local presenters and loyal local advertisers”.
The seven non-confidential responses may be found, along with the consultation document, here.
The main grounds upon which the respondents to the consultation objected to the changes were concerns that the new Perth service would be Dundee-dominated (“it would become a Dundee-run radio station”, with “limited contributions from Perthshire”), and that the current Heartland presenters are likely to have a better knowledge of the Perth area than Wave 102’s presenters will. There were also concerns that specialist music programmes (covering
country music and folk, for example) which currently air on Heartland would be lost, given that Wave 102 doesn’t currently air any specialist music programming of this nature.
Noting the economic difficulties currently faced by HRF, a number of correspondents suggested that the difficult financial situation had been caused by poor management rather than the Perth licence being inherently unviable. There was also some frustration expressed that there had been no consultation by HRF with the local community about its proposals.
Ofcom said: “While acknowledging these concerns, we are satisfied that the proposed changes, taken as a whole, would not narrow the range of programmes available in the area by way of relevant independent radio services.”
In reaching this conclusion, Ofcom was cognisant that the Perth licence already shares 100% of its output with another licensee (the Heartland FM service for Pitlochry & Aberfeldy), and that there is no bespoke Perth programming currently transmitted. Therefore, while the change of programme sharing partner from the Pitlochry & Aberfeldy licensee to the Dundee licensee would represent a substantial change for Perth listeners, we did not consider that it would narrow the range of programming.