Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
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
(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
(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.