RadioCentre calls for faster and “more radical” deregulation

RadioCentre, the commercial radio industry body has called for Ofcom to speed up its review of the radio industry and take a more radical approach. The body made the comments in its response to Ofcom’s Future of Radio consultation.

It says regulation governing radio ownership should be completely removed although the Government should “retain the right to intervene in mergers of special public interest”. It also says local cross-media ownership rules should be retained but that the industry should be allowed to take a self-regulatory approach to local content with a focus on local delivery.

Ofcom proposes simplifying the ownership rules for the radio industry but it says that “some intervention” is needed to ensure the provision of local services and to avoid monopolies. It is also looking how the needs of the industry might change as it moves to digital switchover.

RadioCentre also says that this deregulation should be introduced now rather than waiting for digital listening to increase.

The body also called for a cross-industry working group to be set up to chart the industry’s move to digital radio. It says that commercial, BBC, community radio, the government, manufacturers and Digital UK could come together to form that group. It says this group should report in the first half of 2008. The RadioCentre response adds:”There is an urgent need to chart radio’s journey towards digital. Current levels of investment in digital radio are unsustainable without such as plan.”

Meanwhile, Emap, the owner of Magic and Kiss, has also called for radio ownership rules to be completely abolished. It says issues with ownership should be dealt with under competition laws instead.

The media group says it is “not yet convinced that the time is right to consider analogue switch-off or set a date for it. It welcomes RadioCentre’s proposal for a working group for digital migration.

RadioCentre has also announced the findings of its “The Big Listen” survey, which was launched earlier this year. The final stage, an online poll of over 10,000 listeners, found that 86% of respondents says that radio is “something I would not like to be without” and 91% said ‘Radio is an important part of my life”.

Andrew Harrison, chief executive of RadioCentre, says: “We want to make sure that Britain’s oldest medium renews itself to thrive as a vibrant and dynamic force in UK media through the 21st Century as it has done through the twenieth century.”

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