Letter: Wavelength congestion on a crowded isle

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article on Virgin Radio and the FM frequencies ('Mr Branson has a point on sharing FM', 30 April) omits one or two points.

In crowded islands such as Great Britain there will always be difficulty in allocating wavelengths. At the Government's behest, the BBC is already giving up large amounts of its airwaves for the expanding commercial sector.

Virgin applied for, and won, a franchise that was explicitly advertised as being on the medium-wave frequencies previously used by BBC Radio 3. The next national commercial radio station will also be launched on medium-wave frequencies to be surrendered by the BBC. The BBC has recently given up seven local radio frequencies and will shortly be surrendering another six. All will go to commercial radio.

When it comes to the FM frequency band, any comparison limited to national networks alone ignores the fact that up until now commercial developments have all been in local radio.

About 82 local commercial stations are currently broadcasting on FM, with seven new licences awarded since January 1992. When the next part of the FM waveband becomes available for broadcasting it will go to the commercial sector.

It has become clear during the current debate on Radio 4's future that for many listeners, FM is valued not only for music but also for the range and depth that stereo transmission can bring to drama and documentaries.

At present, more than five million people listen to Radio 4 on FM. In considering any proposals to level so-called playing fields, we must be extremely careful that they are not at the listeners' expense.

Yours sincerely,

PHILIP HARDING

Project Director

Radio 4/News Network

British Broadcasting

Corporation

London, W1

30 April

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