Classic FM challenges franchise rules 1/30 pt of spacey

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The Independent Online

Media Editor

Classic FM yesterday launched a campaign for changes in the way commercial radio licences are readvertised. The successful station, now two and a half years into its eight-year franchise, is concerned its long-term future is threatened because of the terms under which any renewal will take place.

There is no requirement under the 1990 Broadcasting Act for a Classic- style licence to be readvertised on the frequency since the Radio Authority has no requirement to insist on programme quality.

John Spearman, the station's chief executive, said: "There are no long- term guarantees for this remarkable British success. Under present rules, Classic will have to bid again, and against new competition keen to try to inherit the market we have created." Classic FM's audience has reached a plateau of about 4. 5 million listeners weekly, with one in ten adults tuning in regularly.

The call for a change is timed to influence the forthcoming Broadcasting Bill which has been promised for 1995-96. Classic FM wants the radio franchises to be placed on a rolling basis, as will happen to the ITV franchises.

The Radio Authority said it did not favour rolling contracts, preferring to readvertise, but would like more discretion, allowing incumbents to rengeotiate their cash bids, while protecting successful services.

t Through the Keyhole, the TV show presented by Sir David Frost and Loyd Grossman is moving from ITV to Sky One.