Aircheck UK - Carmarthenshire

UPDATED: 26/07/2003

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WALES (South)


BBC Radio Wales is the English language national broadcaster for Wales.  Since it became broadcasting in 1978, when the station's output lasted for just a few hours a day, with Radio 4 in between the local programming, airtime has now expanded to over 19 hours of programming produced all over the country, specifically for the people living in the west of Offa's Dyke, however, the internet provides ex-pats and other interested parties with a service internationally.  

The station's schedule focuses on the kind of information deemed relevant to life in the country, with all the usual features plus tide times, inshore water forecasts, surf conditions and hillwalkers information aired regularly.  From 6:00am to 6:00pm, the phone lines are open (08700 100110) to provide programme content in whatever form. Monday nights include the Welsh Top 40 Chart Show.

The station broadcasts nationally on 93.9 (Swansea, Llanelli & Carmarthenshire), 94.8 (Anglesey, Bangor, Gwynedd, Carnaefonshire & Conwy), 95.4 (Wrexham), 95.9 (Newport & Monmouthshire), 95.1 (Blaenavon, Torfaen & Carmarthenshire) & 104.0 (Cardiff, Penarth & Vale Of Glamorgan) and on AM bands 882 (South Wales), 657 (North Wales) & 1125 (Mid Wales).


RADIO CEREDIGION: Awarded it's licence by the Radio Authority in February 1992, the station actually came to air 14th December of the same year.  It's launch was planned to be earlier in the year but management discovered that one of it's transmitter sites was unsuitable - as another was chosen, this has to be given clearance for use by the relevant authorities.  Co-founded by local MP Simon Thomas, the station offers a bilingual community service across the west coast of Wales on three FM frequencies: 96.6, 97.4 & 103.3FM, all spanning Cardigan Bay.  The station can be heard as far north as Caernarfon and as far south as Carmarthen - reaching over 60,000 adults aged 15+.  

In May of 1999, the Radio Authority, announced that on 6th August, they would be re-advertising the station's licence.  The RA reflected on the licencee's (Radio Ceredigion CYF) record of compliance with licence conditions - which they concluded was unsatisfactory for reasons that we don't know here at AIRCHECK -   Please e-mail us with anyy information to update this matter!  (  As a result, the RA concluded that the licence should be re-advertised fully, without referring to the usual 'fast-track' procedure which would normally be followed.  The successful applicant would receive a licence from 14th December 2000.  Each applicant was required to pay a non-refundable deposit of 750.00 to apply.  By the closing date of November 9th, two applications had been received.  One was from Radio Ceredigion CYF and the other was by The Marcher Radio Group Ltd, operators of Champion 103 & Marcher Radio stations in North Wales - their competitor would be called Champion Ceredigion.  However, the existing licensee was considered to have made the better application by the Radio Authority and awarded a second licence to Radio Ceredigion 2000 CYF Ltd on 10th February 2000.  

The group has a board of directors elected by local members - for it's application, it restructured as a brand new company, hence determined by the 2000 part of the applicant name.  Seventy per cent of station shares are held by North Wales Newspapers Ltd.  The RA saw this involvement as making a significant plus point to the group's application, giving buoyancy to previously seen shortfalls in funding, and ensuring adequate provision of the service in future.  They referred to the large proportion of speech on the station, in comparison to other commercial radio stations, and the fact that it uses a large number of volunteers to run the station.  Research conducted by station management revealed a strong listener base, particularly those that speak Welsh and infact, the highest percentage of audience in the area.  However, the RA felt that the station perhaps didn't serve those that didn't speak Welsh as well.  This is in stark contrast to recent concerns expressed by Ceredigion MP and station co-founder Simon Thomas - he expressed concerns in local political circles about the amount of Welsh that would be heard on the station in the future.  He referred to elements of Welsh programming that were seen as decreasing with English now the mainstay language of peak time broadcasting.  Mr Thomas accused the station of undermining the Welsh language and that the English bias was having a detrimental impact on the survival of the Welsh language.  He called on future regulator OFCOM to impose stricter controls on the station's output when they next reconsider the station's licence.  This will not be until December 2008!

Radio Ceredigion broadcasts from studios at the Old Welsh School on Alexandra Road in Aberystwyth.                                


102.5 RADIO PEMBROKESHIRE: A commercial radio 'baby', this station, independently owned by local shareholders and directors, came on-air 14th July 2002 from studios at Unit 14, The Old School Estate, Station Road in Narbarth.  However, it's history can be traced back to RSL group Haven FM.   Formed in 1998, from the Summer of 1999, four 25watt RSLs were staged from Pennar's Bethany Chapel - this led to a news interview being accompanied by organ music as a practice took place!  All broadcasts have been under the control of the station's MD, ex-Midlands Radio and Quay West Radio (Somerset) presenter Keri Jones.   Of note, it's November 24th 2000 RSL received over 15,000 telephone calls from highly entertained listeners.  

When the Radio Authority advertised a licence for the area, the group, as Haven FM submitted an application and won - beating off two other applicants: More 102 (Radio Pendragon Ltd) & Real Radio (Pembrokeshire Ltd).  Haven formed links with The Wireless Group for the use of production facilities and news sharing at neighbouring Swansea Sound.  

The licence was awarded on 8th November 2001.  The name change to 102.5 Radio Pembrokeshire came in 2002 after the holding of a 'name the station' competition.  This was in response to locals who felt that the old name may incorrectly suggest coverage of Central and South Pembrokeshire.  A pupil, 5 year old Billie-Jo Hughes, from St. Marks School in Haverfordwest, won the competition.

It operates on two frequencies from three transmitters operating at a total of 20,000 watts - 102.5 & 107.5 (Tenby, Penally and Caldey Island) FM - to around 110,000 adults aged 25-54 in Pembrokeshire & North Carmarthenshire.  Programming consists of a mix of local info, competitions and a wide variety of music all presented by a majority of the team from the old Haven FM broadcasts.  There is also a regular, daily 30 minute Welsh language programme.  


REAL RADIO (SOUTH WALES): In August 1999, the Radio Authority invited applications for a new regional radio licence for South Wales to be submitted by 23rd November of the same year.  A total of seven applications were received: 

On 6th April 2000, the Radio Authority awarded the licence to Real Radio to run for eight years from the date the station commenced broadcasting.  By 20th April, the RA had conducted a 'public interest test'.  This was done due to the fact that the winning station is owned by the Guardian Media Group, publishers of newspapers The Guardian and The Observer. Under the Broadcasting Act 1996, a national newspaper proprietor cannot hold a local or regional radio licence, unless the Radio Authority determines that the holding is not against the public interest.  The public were consulted to see if there was likely to be any effect on plurality and diversity of information available locally, but there were no large scale concerns raised.  

Announcing the reason for awarding the licence to Real Radio, the RA considered it offered a well-resourced, professional, full service station, likely to make a dominant contribution to the locale by providing a platform for debate on local issues.  The RA reflected on the management's experience of the same format in other parts of the country.  They acknowledged that the station targeted the older end of the 25-54 age bracket and that 30% of output would be speech based, including current affairs output daily - called Wales Today, phone-ins on sport and business plus a regular soap opera.  It was also noted that Welsh language was warmly welcomed by the station.  In comparison to other stations, Real Radio offered a different music format, one of 70% of melodic hits from the last forty years from a cross-section of genres.  The direct competition was seen as BBC Radio Wales.  The RA felt the new licensee was suitably equipped to meet it's promises and noted that the station management had operated presentations to local business and the public in the run up to the licence application.  Real Radio also carried out it's own research which concluded it's target audience was under-served by existing stations, and that their format would be popular.  

At the end of August 2000, Real Radio announced it would start testing it's transmitters from Monday September 4th on three FM frequencies: 105.4 (Cardiff), 106.0 (Swansea) and 105.9 (Newport).  It took around three days to activate the three, with assistance from the Radio Authority and from transmission providers, NTL.  Test transmissions were to last for four weeks - and a launch date was set for 8:00am on Tuesday 3rd October.  Overall, plans for the launch of the station were completed within five months.  Today, there is also another transmitter purely for Carmarthenshire on 105.2FM.  

As planned, on 3rd October 2000, the station began broadcasting to an estimated one-million people aged 15 or over, across South Wales from studios at Taffs Well, just off the M4 near Cardifff.  On launch, it housed the country's first 24-hour newsroom which would provide extended and regional bulletins 24 hours a day.  12 journalists, three of whom spoke fluent Welsh, were recruited for launch, and a separate newsroom and studio was planned for operation from Swansea.  In addition, on-air presenters were quickly hired and included seven Welsh folk.  As it launched, 500,000+ had been put into promoting the new station, including promotion on HTV Wales, the largest single advertiser on the TV channel over the next two months.  

The station provides exclusive commentary on Cardiff and Swansea City FC as well as the dominant Welsh sport of rugby.  As the licence application promised, there's a weekly business programme and a number of Welsh based features.  Programming is transmitted using five studios installed by the Oxford Sound Company and using the RCS Master Control System in each.  

On-air, you'll find the presenting talents of ex-Century 106 presenter Sarah Graham, ex-BBC Childrens TV presenter Simon Parkin, ex-Welsh footballer, Leighton James, and networked shows from Tony Blackburn, Gary Davies and Mark Goodier.  



DIGITAL: The Wireless Group owners of talkSPORT, operate three stations in South Wales - The Wave (Swansea), Swansea Sound and Valleys RadioTWG in a joint venture with Emap, was recently awarded the Digital Radio Multiplex licence for Swansea which will broadcast The Wave and Swansea Sound as well as Kiss and Smash Hits. The service, which launches in January 2004, will also carry BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.

THE FUTURE: The Radio Authority invited applicants for the new local radio licence for the county of Carmarthenshire, in South West Wales.  Applications for this eight year licence had to be in by 17th June 2003, with each one accompanied by a non-refundable application fee of 1,500.  Two groups formally applied by the closing date.  

However, in a shock announcement, in July 2003, and following a double-check of it's proposed transmission plans by the Radio Authority, Carmarthenshire Sound has dropped out of the licence application process, withdrawing it's application.  The RA has concluded that, because of the degree of population overlap with the neighbouring FM and AM licences in Swansea, the group's application would be incompatible with the Government's proposed new ownership concentration limits which are expected to be in force by the time the licence would be granted.  

Under the new rules, which have been agreed with the radio industry, no company may own three or more mutually overlapping licences if, according to a points formula which takes account of the relative degree of coverage overlap from all commercial stations in the area, these licences represent 55% or more of the total points available in that area.  The ownership of Swansea Sound Ltd and Carmathenshire Sound Ltd means that the applicant, TWG, would exceed the limit.  

A decision as to whether the sole applicant (Radio Carmarthenshire) is deemed suitable, is expected from the Radio Authority in the Autumn of 2003.  

WITHDRAWN BID DETAILS: CARMARTHENSHIRE SOUND: Welsh TV personality Rhodri Williams is adding star power to The Wireless Group's bid to win the FM radio licence for Carmarthenshire after being appointed Chairman of the Board of the proposed new radio station, Carmarthenshire Sound.  Williams is the main anchor for Sky Sports News and studio host of S4C's live Saturday afternoon rugby match 'Y Clwb Rygbi'. He started his career in the county as a reporter for S4C's nightly magazine programme "Heno".  A fluent Welsh speaker, former Animal Hospital star Williams knows the importance of Carmarthenshire Sound being bilingual in a county that is 59% Welsh speaking.

"We will offer listeners a service that speaks their language, whether Welsh or English. I am proud to be leading the bid for Carmarthenshire Sound, which will prove to be a real asset to the county, providing a unique service to the community." says Williams.

The Wireless Group owners of talkSPORT, operate three stations in South Wales - The Wave (Swansea), Swansea Sound and Valleys RadioTWG in a joint venture with Emap, was recently awarded the Digital Radio Multiplex licence for Swansea which will broadcast The Wave and Swansea Sound as well as Kiss and Smash Hits. The service, which launches in January 2004, will also carry BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru.

Kelvin MacKenzie, Chairman and Chief Executive of The Wireless Group, said: "Swansea Sound was Wales' first independent local radio service and launched in 1974. So we have nearly 30 years' experience of providing a local radio service in South Wales, including the outskirts of Carmarthenshire.  Our new service will bring local radio to the county for the first time. We know that the best way to serve the community is to be part of it and this will be Carmarthenshire Sound's philosophy."

REMAINING BID DETAILS: RADIO CARMARTHENSHIRE: Welsh rock star and former lead singer with Catatonia, Cerys Mathews is giving her support to a rival bid from Radio Carmarthenshire.  She pledged her support by handing over a letter during a meeting with RSL breakfast show presenter Andrew ThomasRadio Carmarthenshire is the only locally owned applicant for the licence - backed by Radio Pembrokeshire which is based in nearby Narberth.  This station has campaigned to the Radio Authority for a local Carmarthenshire station following their own group launch in the Summer of 2002.   Cerys, who has family in Pembrokeshire, said she was impressed with the group's local commitment and feels that the station's listeners will benefit greatly from the local approach and the support of their near neighbour.  

The station is locally owned, is the longest established applicant and has taken great joy from recent news.  It's recently received support from local politicians Nick Ainger and the Rt Hon Denzil Davies, and has also seen one of the rival bidders withdraw.  Menter Iaith's Cefin Campbell has not been able to put together it's own bid and withdrew just before the closing date for applications, having only entered the running in May 2003.  The team behind the withdrawn bid now have a small interest in the TWG bid which rivals that of Radio Carmarthenshire.  The Carmarthenshire bid includes the support of local Llanelli Rugby legend Heflin Jenkins, and businessman Mike Theodoulou.  The station is led by Sir David Mansel Lewis with assistance from the media-experienced Lord Gordon Parry and Radio Pembrokeshire directors Jason Bryant and Keri Jones at board level.  Their bid was delivered to the Radio Authority's London HQ on Tuesday 17th June.  The award is expected to be announced in the Autumn.  

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