Ofcom launches revised local radio guidelines

Ofcom has allowed what it describes as “substantial deregulation” of local radio programming. It published new guidelines on local content today (February 7) that the watchdog says “recognise the need for flexibility” in the current economic climate.

The guidance states that FM local radio stations should broadcast at least 10 hours of locally-made programmes each weekday during daytime and at least four hours at weekends.

AM stations should provide at least four hours of locally-made content everyday of the week and stations based in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will be required to provide a further six weekday hours from their home nation.

However, no station will be required to produce more locally-made content than at present.

It says it is “right” to maintain a minimum amount of obligations for local radio content on radio, which a number of operators such as GCap and EMAP had argued against.

Ofcom says that for many licensees, the new guidelines represent “substantial deregulation”.

It adds that it recognises the need for flexibility and the case for reducing overheads “given the challenging economic climate facing the radio industry”, so will consider requests from stations with a population coverage under 250,000 adults to programme share with a neighbouring station or co-locate.

The guidance is in line with proposals set out in a Future of Radio consultation document published in November.

Ofcom continues to lead the Digital Radio Working Group, which was announced in November to work on the transition to digital radio.

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