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AM/FM #15 — September 1993

News from the UK Radio Industry. Edited by Stephen Hebditch.

LBC To Appeal Over Licence Decision

LBC is to seek a reversal of the Radio Authority's decision to take away their licence and give it to London News Radio. Dame Shirley Porter, chairman of the station, has launched a petition and plans to campaign on air for LBC to be allowed to keep its licence. Executive Director Matthew Cartisser is considering whether to seek a judicial review in the High Court. This would require the station to show that the Radio Authority had acted improperly in making their decision. The chances of success in this are slim — a similar appeal by the former ITV contractor for the West of England against the Independent Television Commission failed last year.

London News Radio's Editor in Chief will be former LBC Managing Director Peter Thornton and the station will employ a number of former LBC staff. Its chairman is John Tusa, former boss of the BBC World Service and currently presenter of the One O'Clock News on BBC Television. The BBC did not know of his involvement until the announcement on Friday. LNR's backers are led by merchant bank Guiness Mahon and French media group Hachette. It will offer a rolling news format on its FM frequency, repeating every 20 minutes throughout the day. AM will be a mix of phone-ins, discussions and news similar to London Talkback Radio. It expects to employ around 160 staff, compared with the 120 currently employed by LBC. LNR will begin broadcasting in October 1994.

Two new stations were awarded licences. London Country Radio plans to launch in January and will broadcast on 1035 AM. It is backed by the Allied Radio Group. Sunrise Radio will expand Londonwide from their current West London operation. From early 1994 their Asian programming will be heard on the 1458 AM frequency currently used by GLR. Their existing licence for West London will be re-advertised later.

Two further Londonwide licences are expected to be advertised in 1994, at the same time as those for Capital Radio's two frequencies are re-advertised. Unsuccessful applicants in the current round will be able to re-apply then without a further application fee. The licences for Jazz FM, Kiss FM, Melody Radio and Spectrum International were all retained by their respective companies.

Commercial Radio Breaks The 40% Barrier

The RAJAR audience research figures for April to June 1993, published at the start of August, show commercial radio hitting an audience share of over 40 percent for the first time. In the competitive London radio market this rises to 60 percent.

BBC Radio Five, believed to be at risk from the BBC's plans for a 24 hour rolling news station, had the greatest gains amongst BBC Network Radio. Its audience was up by half a million to 4.6 million listeners. Radio Two and Radio Four saw significant falls, although the BBC largely attributes this to seasonal factors. BBC Local Radio saw major gains, adding nearly 900,000 new listeners. The BBC see this as a vindication of their decision to increase the news and speech content of their local stations. 22% of people in the UK now tune in to BBC local radio each week.

Virgin managed to reach its pre-launch audience target — just — with a reach of 3.2 million. Radio One was impacted less than some observers had predicted, its reach down slightly to 15.7 million listeners. Atlantic 252 saw its reach drop by 209,000 listeners while Classic FM saw a small increase of 7,000 listeners.

Locally, a number of ILR stations appear to have been hit by the arrival of Virgin. Jazz FM saw its reach drop by a quarter, while Capital FM and Capital Gold both lost hours. Following a large drop in the last RAJAR figures, blamed on inaccurate sampling of young listeners, Kiss was boosted by a massive 60% increase in hours. Top three increases in reach amongst ILR went to Orchard FM, Radio City and Radio Tay while the biggest decreases went to Piccadilly Gold, Ocean and Swansea Sound.

Pirate Activity Up

The Radio Investigation Service carried out 536 raids against 85 pirate radio stations in the last 12 months, according to its annual report. 68 people were prosecuted as a result of its actions, with an average fine of UKP 750.

According to the RIS, pirate radio activity is on the increase once more, particularly in London where over half the pirates in the UK operate. Following a large increase in complaints earlier in the year from legitimate broadcasters about growing interference to their services, the RIS has revised its procedures. Reports of interference from licensed services are now dealt with as a priority with special channels of communication between them and the RIS.

A new phoneline has been set up by the RIS for people to report interference problems. Local officers will investigate upon payment of a UKP 31 fee which will be refunded if the problem proves to be due to external factors. The telephone number for the service is 071 215 2150.

Rolling News Decision Postponed

The BBC is expected to announce its decision on its proposed rolling news service later than originally planned. It had anticipated making an announcement in September as to whether the service would go ahead and on what frequency. However, it now seems likely that a decision will be held off until October or possibly November. Reports from BBC staffers suggest that a merger with Radio Five to form a news and sport network remains the most likely option.

Seven Bids For Scotland Regional

The Radio Authority has received seven bids for the Central Scotland regional radio licence. This will cover Edinburgh and Glasgow and the area inbetween, around 2.3 million adults. The winner is expected to be announced in at the end of November.

Applicants were as follows:-

Caledonia FM
- Music and speech from a Christian broadcaster.
Central Scotland Broadcasting Ltd
- Adult contemporary driven by Scottish and Celtic music.
Central Scotland Radio
- Adult contemporary and speech.
Coast to Coast Radio
- Easy listening and speech.
Cross Country Radio
- Country music.
CSR FM
- Easy listening with a bias towards Scottish music.
Radio Six Ltd
- News and talk.

Commercial Radio Needs 50% More Revenue

A new report says that commercial radio needs to increase its total advertising revenue by at least 50 percent to meet the planned number of new radio stations. Analysts Coopers and Lybrand say that radio needs to take 3 percent of the overall advertising cake to be able to support the 180 local and 3 national stations expected to be on the air in 1996. In 1992 Independent Radio took a 2 percent share, earning 140 million in advertising revenue.

Independent stations are hoping that new advertisers will be attracted by its growth in audience share, its increasing diversity and the higher profile of the new Independent National Radio stations. The launch of INR has already tempted a number of advertisers to use radio for the first time or to return to radio after a long absence. 62% of the advertisers on Classic FM and 30% of those on Virgin 1215 are new to radio.

Sunset Goes 'Pirate'

National Transcommunications Ltd pulled the plug on Manchester's Sunset Radio on August 13th after they failed to keep up with payments for their transmission facilities. Sunset temporarily organised its own transmitter to get the station back on the air before sorting out its differences with NTL and returning to the air properly. The Radio Authority and the DTI's Radiocommunications Agency are considering whether the temporary transmitter was in breach of Sunset's licence conditions.

Local Licences

The Radio Authority has advertised a new FM licence for St Albans and Watford covering 230,000 adults. The closing date for applications is the 2nd of November.

The licences currently held by Belfast Community Radio, Bradford's Sunrise FM and Kettering's KCBC have been re-advertised.

13 groups have applied for the West Midlands regional radio licence: Apna Radio, Buzz FM, Central Band, Easy FM, Enterprise Radio, EZ FM, Heart FM, LGD, Love FM, Sunrise Radio, Supa FM, United Christian Broadcasters and WFM.

Three groups have applied for the ILR licence for Gloucester. They include Severn Vale Radio, the Broadcasting in Gloucestershire consortium and present licence holder Severn Sound, part of the Chiltern Radio Group.

Canmore Radio is the sole applicant for the recently advertised licence for Dunfermline in Scotland.

Red Dragon FM and Touch AM have retained their licences for Cardiff.

SGR-Colchester will launch on October 17th, broadcasting on 96.1 FM to the Colchester area. The station is owned by the East Anglian Radio Group.

People

Paul Ross has taken over from Chris Evans on Virgin's Saturday mid-morning show. He was previously presenter of the Sunday mid-morning slot on GLR as well as producing Channel Four's The Word and presenting LWT's Crime Monthly.

Claire Sturgess has taken over from the sacked Dave Lee Travis on the mid-morning show on One FM. DLT meanwhile says he is considering offers from a number of stations.

Shock jock James Whale and comedian Simon Fanshawe are to join GLR. The station has been on the look out for new talent following a mass defection of its staff to Virgin 1215 earlier in the year. Fanshawe has previously worked on Radio Five while James Whale is best known for his work on Leeds' Radio Aire. A new permanent Managing Editor will be appointed to GLR in the autumn.

LBC's Mike Carlton went on holiday three days early after falling out with his station. He had earlier attacked LBC for refusing to let him broadcast a copy of the John Major 'bastard-gate' tape.

Radio Scotland has axed three of its specialist music presenters. Gerry Ford, Jan Fairley and Gordon Cruickshank who host the country, world music and jazz programmes will leave in the middle of September. The specialist Scottish music programme, Celtic Horizons, hosted by Robbie Shepherd is also believed to be under threat.

Contracts

British Airways has pulled out as sponsor of Capital Radio's traffic spotter plane. It decided not to renew the three year contract which ended on September 4th.

WH Smith are to sponsor a new listener choice slot on Virgin 1215. Listeners will get to choose tracks by an artist who will then be promoted in-store the following week.

Woolworths has launched a new syndicated computer games review show on ILR. The Woolworths Thumb-busters Games Guide will air twice weekly until next January.

Coca Cola are to sponsor all Kiss FM's live concert promotions for the next 12 months.

Classic FM and Time Magazine are to begin selling advertising for each other to try and expand each other's advertising bases. Time-Warner are one of the main shareholders in the INR station.

Financial News

Allied Radio, owners of stations in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, have announced further losses. In the six months up to the end of March, Allied made a loss of UKP 1.17 million before tax. It is now looking at restructuring its finances, but has denied reports that it plans to enter into a friendly takeover deal with Southern Radio.

Virgin has dismissed reports that Richard Branson intends to put the station up for sale. There were rumours that he was opening talks with a US consortium for the disposal of the station.

Bits

The World Radio Network will begin test transmissions on the Astra satellite on September 15th. Full programming begins on October 1st, featuring the pick of public radio from around the world. WRN can be found on the 7.74MHz subcarrier of channel 22.

The BBC has imposed a blanket 1.5 percent pay rise on its staff this year. This came in advance of a union ballot which rejected the pay deal.

GLR is considering moving into the former headquarters of Thames Television in the Euston Road in London, a few doors down from Capital Radio. It would be co-sited with Newsroom South East as part of the BBC's strategy to use journalists for both TV and radio. The current Elstree studios used by Newsroom South East are to be closed.

Radio Clyde has opened two new transmitters, improving reception for around 200,000 listeners. Towns around the Firth of Clyde now have a new transmitter on 103.3 FM, with the second transmitter on 97 FM broadcasting to the north side of the river.

A former Virgin employee is organising a boycott of the station which she considers to be racist and sexist. Robin Katz, now a freelance journalist, has attacked the station for not having enough female or black employees or playing music by female or black artists.

Kiss FM has launched a new collection of club-wear in association with Global Hypercolor.

Capital Radio's Managing Directory, Richard Eyre, has banned horoscopes from the station.