Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 164)



Mr Weir

  160. I had the very same approaches as Alistair from the local radio station in my area to do with the Dundee and Perth multiplex. Their complaint was that yes, they were being invited to take part in this but the cost to them was astronomical compared to the amount of income they had to operate. Effectively once the multiplex was up and running, they may well be squeezed out on a cost basis. Although they had been invited to tender they could not afford what had been asked of them.
  (Mr Goode) I have sympathy. The cost of digital radio broadcasting is very high and the establishment of multiplexes by ourselves is a tremendous cost and we will not be seeing any return on that until long after I have retired. The only way that we can ameliorate those costs is to charge for services which want to be broadcast on those multiplexes.

  161. That takes us back to Alistair's point that all the local ones are going to be squeezed out. Although you may invite them in, effectively they are squeezed out because they cannot afford the cost of doing so.
  (Mr Goode) We have tried to be flexible in certain cases with the sort of rates we put forward. I have to accept that we cannot use band width on those multiplexes which are costing a lot of money to develop and everyone wishes us to support digital radio and push forward the development of digital radio. That is why we put our money in. At the same time, we cannot give away what is very valuable band width on those multiplexes and yes, there is a tension there.

  162. I accept what you are saying about the cost but effectively instead of increasing choice, digital radio could have the exact opposite effect if small stations are squeezed out.
  (Mr Goode) I do not accept that, if I may. We have to go to the Radio Authority anyway with the bouquet of services we wish to put on those multiplexes and the Radio Authority are mandated to ensure that we are expanding listener choice. In fact we are dramatically increasing the choice in each of the areas where we have a multiplex.

  163. You are increasing the choice by bringing in different components of the multiplex. It still has the effect of squeezing out many small long-serving local stations on a cost basis.
  (Mr Goode) I am not sure we have squeezed anyone out at the moment.

  164. There is a potential to do so.
  (Mr Goode) If you take the limited band width which is on one of those multiplexes, there is clearly only a certain number. A number of major programme providers do not get onto multiplexes either because we have a finite band width and we can therefore only fit so many people on. Yes, I accept that major producers and indeed some of the smaller producers will not get on, either through cost or because they were within another applicant's multiplex bouquet when it went down to the Radio Authority. Remember these are fairly competitively tendered for.

  Mr Carmichael: I do not think anyone is suggesting that it is necessarily the fault of Scottish Radio Holdings, but it is a perceived potential consequence of digital radio. Yes, we will have more choice, but for people in Shetland it is going to mean the choice of four or five radio stations giving regional news out of Aberdeen in which we will feature hardly at all because most people in Aberdeen, who are very aware of Shetland compared to other parts, still think we live in a box in the Moray Firth. The sort of local choice we want is not going to be catered for. I am not even asking you to answer that, it is just a comment.

  Chairman: The final question is: what is wrong with Dolly Parton? Thank you very much gentlemen for coming along. May I also include in that thanks our thanks to Gordon Campbell, who is a very familiar figure to us all, who serves us very well and has done for a very long time. Thank you for your input this morning. It is greatly appreciated and will be very helpful to us in compiling our report. Thank you very much. Order, order.

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