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'News: Ofcom Explains Its Local Commercial FM Radio Licence Award Decisions In Manchester, Norwich & Ballymena' by Grant Goddard

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News story about explanations offered by UK media regulator Ofcom as to its recent local commercial FM radio licence awards in the markets of Manchester, Norwich and Ballymena, written by Grant Goddard in June 2005 for The Radio Magazine.

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'News: Ofcom Explains Its Local Commercial FM Radio Licence Award Decisions In Manchester, Norwich & Ballymena' by Grant Goddard

  1. 1. NEWS: OFCOM EXPLAINS ITS LOCAL COMMERCIAL FM RADIO LICENCE AWARD DECISIONS IN MANCHESTER, NORWICH & BALLYMENA by GRANT GODDARD www.grantgoddard.co.uk June 2005
  2. 2. UK media regulator Ofcom has admitted that the award of the new Manchester FM licence proved a “particularly difficult decision” because of the large number of applicants and the wide variety of formats they had proposed. The regulator’s Radio Licensing Committee concluded that there was an “apparent lack of a definitive market gap in terms of age group” for a new Manchester station because the existing commercial services in the market are already “designed to appeal to listeners of all ages”. The committee pointed to ratings evidence that local commercial radio’s share of listening is greater in Manchester than for the UK as a whole. Nevertheless, independent research published in 'The Radio Magazine' [#670] showed that local commercial radio’s 39% share of listening in Manchester still falls below that achieved in comparable metropolitan cities such as London (43%), Birmingham (45%) and Glasgow (52%), where commercial stations are similarly numerous. Ofcom concluded that, in Manchester, “listener choice” would best be broadened by awarding the licensing to “a new format” aimed at an audience “among whom a clear demand for such output could be demonstrated”. The 'Xfm' proposal appealed to Ofcom because of the “clear demand” the applicant had demonstrated for its format, the strong support from the local music industry, the comedy shows in its schedule, the commitment to 45 hours per week of specialist music shows, and the live sessions for unsigned artists. The Committee also liked Xfm’s plan to broadcast local news throughout daytime shows and to produce 20 hours a day of the station’s output in Manchester. Ofcom explained that it had decided to award the new Norwich licence to 'Crown FM' because of the applicant’s “credible business plan”, its “understanding of the local marketplace” and the group’s “relevant radio experience”. Shareholder Tindle Radio’s ownership of existing stations in two neighbouring markets was viewed as a positive factor because Ofcom believed that a combined rate card would “place the new service in a stronger position” relative to 'Broadland 102', the twenty-year old GCap Media-owned heritage station that achieves a 19% share in the Norwich market. Ofcom liked Crown FM’s commitment to a 24-hour local news service, two extended daily local news bulletins, and a music format that limited songs from the 2000’s to 40% of output. The applicant also made a commitment to “locally produced” programming 24 hours a day. For the Ballymena licence, Ofcom said that, although the revenue and cost projections of winning applicant 'Seven Towers FM' were “ambitious”, this factor was offset by the “particularly impressive level of funding” provided by two local newspaper groups who had “direct experience of the local Ballymena advertising market”. Ofcom felt that the group’s board offered “a good mixture of business and radio experience”, particularly as two board members had been involved in small-scale radio station launches in the Republic of Ireland. The group’s plans to provide seven-day local news coverage, live sports commentaries and half-hour specialist interest programmes would, according to Ofcom, “improve the availability of Ballymena-specific news and other kinds of information for listeners in the area.” Ofcom’s only criticism was that the sample sizes used in some of the group’s market research were rather small. News: Ofcom Explains Its Local Commercial FM Radio Licence Award Decisions In Manchester, Norwich & Ballymena Page 2 ©2005 Grant Goddard
  3. 3. News: Ofcom Explains Its Local Commercial FM Radio Licence Award Decisions In Manchester, Norwich & Ballymena Page 3 ©2005 Grant Goddard [First published in 'The Radio Magazine' as 'Ofcom: Manchester Was "Difficult Decision"', #690, 29 June 2005] Grant Goddard is a media analyst / radio specialist / radio consultant with thirty years of experience in the broadcasting industry, having held senior management and consultancy roles within the commercial media sector in the United Kingdom, Europe and Asia. Details at http://www.grantgoddard.co.uk

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