Ofcom overhauls rules on restricted radio licensing

Ofcom has overhauled the way it regulates radio restricted service licences (RSLs), extending their scope to conferences, non-sporting events and theme parks.

Football clubs and cricket grounds will also be able to offer commentary at stadia without having to reapply for licences for every event.

The media regulator has made the changes following a consultation which showed support for proposals to liberalise the restrictions on short-term 28-day RSLs. It will also allow commercial organisations such as shopping centres to apply for long-term RSLs, which run for between one and five years, on the same basis as non-commercial enterprises.

Short-term licences are already available to the organisers of big sporting events – allowing them to broadcast information and commentary to spectators. However, they will now be extended to non-sporting events such as conferences.

Other changes include introducing a permanent licensing scheme for audio distribution services (ADS), which allow spectators at an event to listen to commentary, and removing restrictions on content created by ADS licensees, such as advertising and commercial messages.

Charities such as the National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS) and the RNIB were among those campaigning for a more permanent scheme. NADS said it supported the intentions of sporting venues such as the new Wembley stadium to be able to supply event commentary to sight impaired visitors on a secure frequency that was not open to interference from other sources.

The RNIB says forcing sports arenas to apply for licences for each event created unnecessary administration for an “essential” service for the blind.

Ofcom has said it would consider requests for use of the currently unused spectrum between 55 and 68MHz.

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