Interesting news that UKRD have handed back an FM licence. Interesting because it’s the first time it’s ever happened. UKRD are abandoning the people of Stroud, not i’m sure out of malice, but because of the sound business reason that it’s never made any money in eight years. They recently proposed to the regulator, Ofcom, to co-locate the station with a nearby operation and simulcast some programming. Ofcom didn’t allow the simulcating…
“It reached its decision having regard to its programming obligations under Sections 106 (1A) and (1B) of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (as amended), and its obligations with regard to localness output under Section 314 of the Communications Act.”
In other words they felt it would reduce localism (for its, ahem, 11,000 listeners) to unacceptably low standards. Though surely it would have been slightly more local than the station shutting down?
However as my diagram shows, they’re not exactly that far away are they? If they’d been allowed to produce one station for both areas, i’m sure they would have included news and information for both markets. And it would of meant they’d actually make some money, which, hey, might have even raised the quality of their programming!
Now it’s not entirely Ofcom’s fault, they’ll talk about having to follow the Act of Parliament, which of course they do. However there is enough wiggle room to allow it to happen. I’m sure actually they’re more worried about it setting a precedent and then lots of stations asking for the same thing. Interestingly when Ofcom did a consultation on this the only people that responded was a small independently operated radio station on the outskirts of London – no local competitors and no listeners!
Local commercial radio works well when station’s serve their audiences, however they can only do this if they’ve got a secure financial backing. If hyper-localness is important a station will find out pretty quickly if they’ve (wrongly) moved their programming in the other direction. For local stations like these, local advertising is incredibly important and not catering for local audiences will effect the cashflow pretty quickly. That’s the best way to guarantee high quality local radio, not through micro-management decisions that actually result in an audience being deprived of a whole station.