Under the 1990 Broadcasting Act the Medium Wave channel has to be a mainly speech-based service, likely to compete with the BBC's Radio 4 and its proposed news and sport channel.
However, the authority has interpreted the Act liberally and says the new station will need to broadcast spoken material for only 51 per cent of the time.
It must also cater to different tastes from the existing national commercial stations, Classic FM and Virgin 1215.
The new services will use BBC Radio 1's Medium Wave frequencies of 1053 and 1089 kHz, with Radio 1 restricted to FM. The authority says it will cover 90 per cent of the population in daylight hours and it may be able to use an additional frequency, 1107 kHz, after dark.
The franchise will be offered to the highest bidder. Each applicant has to pay an entry fee of pounds 10,000. The winner will pay an annual licence fee of pounds 400,000, plus a levy of 4 per cent on revenue. Applications close on 15 March, and the winner will be announced in the summer.Reuse content