Local analogue radio stations should be able to drop local programming and become national stations in order to secure their future, according to Ofcom.
The broadcasting regulator says regional analogue stations should be able to become UK-wide digital or “quasi-national analogue” stations by dropping the local programming required from them.
In addition, Ofcom says existing regional multiplexes should be allowed to merge and expand to create a second, regionalised UK-wide commercial DAB multiplex “that could be a platform for national radio station brands while still selling advertising on a regionalised basis”.
Ofcom made its recommendations in a wider submission document to Government on some of the issues raised in Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Interim Report, published in January.
It says the changes are necessary to “secure the future of commercial radio in the face of increasing financial and competitive pressures”.
Ofcom also says that DAB should be the primary distribution platform for UK-wide and large regional stations, a view shared by Lord Carter, which stated in the January report that the Government was committed to making DAB the main platform.
The recommendations come days after industry body RadioCentre announced it is lobbying the Office of Fair Trading to relax the rules on local radio mergers.
The body says local radio mergers should be considered in the context of local media ownership as a whole because advertisers now plan pan media-campaign so old advertising provision restrictions via medium no longer apply.