Radio Authority boss sets out vision

Radio Authority chairman Richard Hooper set out his “radical vision” to significantly deregulate the radio industry at the Radio Festival in Glasgow yesterday (Tuesday). He offered to set up a tier of not-for-profit radio stations to ensure plurality.

Hooper outlined the Radio Authority’s submission to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport/Department of Trade and Industry’s White Paper.

The Radio Authority proposes a Radio Regulator, within a vertically integrated “Ofcom”, with responsibility for licensing and content regulation for analogue and digital stations and multiplexes.

The regulatory body proposed liberalising national ownership by replacing the points system with UK competition rules, with local ownership of analogue and digital licences governed by “simple, transparent rules”. The proposed rules provide that where ten or more Independent Local Radio (ILR) analogue licences exist, no more than four may be owned by the same company to ensure plurality of ownership in place of the “current opaque system”.

The Radio Regulator would not have responsibility for licensing radio stations broadcasting over the Internet, telephone, cable and satellite platforms but would offer co-regulation of advertising and programming to these non-licensed stations.

Public interest tests in cross-media ownership would be abolished in favour of measures ensuring plurality. The beauty parade method of licensing would continue to prevail over auctions.

Introduction of a tier of not-for-profit radio stations called “Access Radio” is also proposed. Access Radio would be seed-corn funded by a new Radio Fund, drawn from sources such as a levy on national radio advertising revenue from ILR services.

Hooper also called for external regulation of the BBC under “Ofcom” saying: “As the BBC moves further into radio services and related audio output with commercial implications, they will need the regulation equivalent to that which applies to commercial broadcasters.”

There is also a proposal to extend ILR and Independent National Radio analogue licences from eight to 12 years.

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