Radio Station News: Senior politicians reply on Erewash Sound plans for a second transmitter

Published on: Wednesday, 20th March 2019
The Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James MP
Erewash MP Maggie Throup

Erewash Sound has received three letters of reply after Erewash MP Maggie Throup approached the broadcast regulator - OFCOM - seeking a quick decision over a bid by radio station officials to install a second transmitter to provide better coverage across the borough.

Writing to the borough MP, Margot James MP, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries said: "OFCOM invited applications last Summer and a decision on whether to allow an extension is a matter for OFCOM themselves and depends on spectrum availability."   Ms James also suggested that the regulator had to consider applications from other community broadcasters and ensure that extensions do not interfere with existing operators, at both BBC and commercial radio level and directed Mrs. Throup's enquiry on to OFCOM for a direct response.

However, in a handwritten footnote to her otherwise typed letter, the Minister added: "PS. It does seem a long time - there is much OFCOM has to take into consideration however.  I do hope it is resolved soon."

In a subsequent letter to Mrs Throup, OFCOM spokesperson, Group Director for broadcast spectrum, Philip Marnick said: "OFCOM received over 130 requests from existing community radio stations for an improvement or extension to coverage.  We have been dealing first with requests for improvements and are now turning our attention to extension requests.

Erewash Sound's application is for an extension to its coverage.  The success of an application is, amongst other things, dependent on frequency availability and whether there may be an increase in the level of interference to listeners' reception of other stations.  In every case, we neeed to take account of other stations (community, commercial and BBC) on the same frequency, or an adjacent one.  Given the large volume of applications, this work is understandably taking some time.

If a technical change is possible, we will consider whether the request is in line with the requirements we set out in the guidance we have published, including statutory criteria, as part of our process.

We will get back to applicants, including Erewash Sound, in due course."

Replying to the Board of Directors by post, Mrs Throup said that she appreciated any disappointment caused by the response but hoped that it clarified the situation.

Although exact timescales are not known, suggestions from inside the broadcasting industry are that applicants could expect decisions between February and the end of April.   As indicated in the latest response from OFCOM, these suggestions have neither been confirmed nor refuted by the regulator.

Although output can also be heard on-line, Erewash Sound CIC has applied for a second FM transmitter in order to better serve the south and south-west of the borough.  As stated above, this application falls into the second round of OFCOM considerations - an extension to the current 96.8FM footprint - with a second transmitter using a second FM frequency.   Radio station officials are hoping that the regulator agrees to the application and using one of a number of suggested frequencies.   The radio station operates using a community radio licence, on a non-profit making basis, working to a series of key commitments including social gain.

Compliance Director and Acting Press Officer Ian Perry said: "We remain optimistic that OFCOM will make an decision in our favour, hopefully by the end of April 2019 at the latest, but in the meantime, we continue to take steps to make sure that we can act quickly in the event of being granted a second frequency.  We will announce full details as soon as we can once we hear from the regulator in response to our exciting, ambitious plans which seek to build on the success of the radio station over the past 9 years since our launch in March 2010 and the key, local part that Erewash Sound plays in borough life."

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