The Communications Act 2003 requires Ofcom to award licences for FM commercial radio services in open competition based on statutory criteria. Previously this duty was undertaken by the Radio Authority.
Ofcom is today publishing its proposals for the process for licensing new FM commercial radio services.
These form part of Ofcom’s broader strategy toward the radio sector which will be developed during 2004, including:
A new approach to Community Radio, to be set out in separate proposals later this month. Community Radio will build on radio’s potential for giving local communities a stronger voice.
A review of digital radio, examining the options for further and faster take-up of all digital radio services.
Continued support for Restricted Services Licences (RSLs), which give hundreds of organisations each year the opportunity to go on air.
New guidance on localness in radio.
The key proposals published by Ofcom today are as follows:
Firstly, a simpler, clearer process to apply for a licence, including:
Clear guidance on how the statutory criteria relating to a particular licence will apply.
A timetable for the licences to be offered over the year ahead.
More information available to applicants when a licence is offered, including an analysis of the relevant market.
A reduction in the amount of information that applicants need to send to Ofcom, with a better focus on providing the information which matters.
A simpler approach to content regulation by inviting applicants to submit their own format ? a summary of a station’s proposed style and character. The format of the winning applicant will be included in their licence terms.
Secondly, new proposals for the FM licences that will be offered by Ofcom in the next two years:
In total at least 35 commercial FM licences remain available for licensing. These include potential licences not identified before, in Bournemouth and in Stoke-on Trent. Ofcom is also seeking views on options for offering either larger regional licences or a greater number of smaller licences, in four areas of the UK:
South-West England; and,
Decisions on radio licence awards will be made by a Committee of the Ofcom Main Board; further details of the decision-making process are set out in the consultation document.
The full consultation document, together with a Summary, is available on Ofcom’s website at: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/
Responses are invited by 11 March 2004.
Ofcom intends to resume licensing as soon as possible. The regulator proposes to publish shortly a timetable for the first licences to be offered under the new process in order to give potential applicants the necessary time to prepare proposals.
This timetable will be prepared on the basis of the proposals in the consultation document, but will be without prejudice to the results of the consultation. The first advertisements of new radio licences under the new process are planned for May/June 2004.