Ofcom considers future of radio regulation

Ofcom is proposing an overhaul of radio ownership rules and a relaxation of analogue regulations for local stations as part of a consultation on the future of radio regulation and licensing. It aims to address the challenges faced by the industry from new technologies and the shift to digital.

The regulator proposes that the Government should bring a single set of ownership rules covering all listening platforms to allow greater flexibility for operators and ensure that listeners can access services and content from different providers. The current ownership rules are applied in different ways to analogue and digital stations.

It is also proposing an overhaul of commercial radio regulation and licensing requirements to bring local analogue radio in line with digital audio broadcasting. It is says that there should be a relaxation in the level of detail required for analogue formats and that it should be standardised according to the size of stations. It aims to help local stations spend their budgets more efficiently.

The consultation, which has been launched following a discussion paper last November, also calls for lighter regulation for community radio services and it is seeking views that it will be submitted to the Secretary of State later this year.

It is also seeking views on the future allocation of analogue spectrum use and calls for a review of AM services in 2009 and for FM in 2012 or when digital listening reaches 50% of all listening, whichever is earlier.

It says both reviews would consider the future use of analogue spectrum and set common end-dates for existing commercial and BBC services.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards says: “Radio remains important to many consumers, but the environment which is operates is changing. It is essential that regulation reflects this.”

Responses to the consultation should be submitted by June 29.

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