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Wednesday, 5th March 2003
Radio regulator turns up the frequencies in Edinburgh and Manchester

With the current round of local and regional DAB digital radio licence advertisements nearing its end, the commercial radio regulator is turning its attentions once again to the FM spectrum. As many as twenty new metropolitan stations could launch, with further services planned for localised areas.

The Radio Authority's strategy for FM licencing, which is to be handed over to the new communications regulator this December, includes plans for FM licences in Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle. Smaller cities such as Bristol and Swansea are also expected to benefit from any new licence advertisements.

The Authority is already working through a list of areas that have attracted interest in full-time licences. Ballymena, Kidderminster, Cornwall, Blackburn, Norwich, Banbury, Durham, Ashford (Kent) and Torbay have been bookmarked for the attention of Ofcom when it takes over the reigns this winter.

Camarthenshire and Glasgow will be the last local areas for FM licences that the outgoing Radio Authority will deal with.

The main metropolitan areas within the study include:

  • Edinburgh: Forth FM could be joined by a station serving a similar-sized population.

  • Manchester: up to two new FM licences to cover the city

  • Liverpool: a city-wide licence could be in the pipeline

  • Newcastle and/or Sunderland: a dual-city licence

  • Middlesbrough: could be combined with Newcastle to provide a region-wide licence

  • Southampton

  • Portsmouth

  • Cardiff or Newport

  • Swansea: up to two new FM licences

  • Bristol

  • Humberside

  • Norwich: another licence apart from that already on the working list

Other areas on the future working list include Dundee, Perth, Aberdeen, Exeter, Torbay, Plymouth and Belfast. It is anticipated the frequency spectrum is large enough to support more than one station in some of these areas.

Not all areas fare so well - London, West Midlands, East Midlands, Glasgow and the former counties of South and West Yorkshire will not be tuning in to any further incremental FM stations, once the current round of advertisements has been completed.

A similar number of more "localised" licences to serve towns and boroughs are also being looked at. These include:

  • Chorley (subject to decisions regarding Manchester licences)

  • Barrow-in-Furness

  • Thames Estuary: including Dartford, Swale, Sheppey, Southend and other towns in South Essex

  • Northallerton

  • Halifax and Calderdale

  • Newry

  • Swindon

  • Devizes

  • Andover

  • Abingdon

Although commercial radio has been around since 1973 - the year in which London services Capital Radio and LBC launched - the FM broadcasting spectrum has only really taken off since the Authority started the push to bring more local FM stations to the UK, from 1991 onwards.

The new regulator Ofcom is likely to adopt the same methods for advertising new licences as the Radio Authority.

Related links:
working list of FM radio licences, on this website.
working list of local DAB radio licences, on this website. promo banner

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