When one of Ofcom’s analogue licensees (both commercial and community radio licensees) applies to extend its coverage, we publish the application for a period of one month to ensure that relevant stakeholders and consumers alike can make representations against the proposals or provide their support. We do note that Radio Caroline encouraged its listeners to take this approach and we took these emails of support into account in the course of our decision. However, the period for representations has closed and the licensee has been informed of our decision.
Ofcom must have regard in its decisions to consider applications to extend coverage of an analogue service to Sections 106(4) – (6) Broadcasting Act: Ofcom can authorise an extension to a licensed area into an adjoining area or locality only if it would not result in a significant increase in the licensed area, or if Ofcom considers that the increase in the licensed area is justifiable in the exceptional circumstances of the case. In this context, Ofcom must consider the proposal in relation to the original licensed position of the coverage of the service (rather than considering the significance of the extension in relation to the current licensed area, if it has been increased since the licence was first awarded).
As communicated to Radio Caroline earlier this year, our analysis of their proposal demonstrated that it would equate to an approximate increase of 770% in the adult population served by Radio Caroline were Ofcom to approve the request, which we considered would equate to a significant extension (this was also our view when considering the geographical increase in coverage). In our view, while we had regard to the exceptional circumstances set out by Radio Caroline in their application, we did not consider that an increase of this magnitude would meet either the policy criteria or the legislative framework for existing community radio services.
We have however committed to continue engaging with Radio Caroline, particularly with regard to any potential changes in legislation or policy which may result in possible changes in analogue coverage.
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