Under section 355 of the Communications Act 2003, every time a ‘change of control’ – in other words, a station changes hands – takes place, Ofcom must conduct a full review of its continued output.
The review takes into account what effect the ‘change of control’ might have on “the quality and range of programmes included in the service”, “the character of the service”, and “the extent to which local material and locally-made programmes are included in the service”.
Despite the breadth of each review, it’s rare for there to be any marked change in the station’s output enough to warrant being included in the final review document – each of which Ofcom publish on their website.
The reviews after the takeovers of Telford FM, Radio Ceredigion, SouthCity FM and Century 106 – for example – mention no “suggested variations to the licence”, referring mostly to the ‘spirit’ (character) of the licence. In fact, there were no “suggested variations” to Spirit FM’s licence after their takeover by The Local Radio Company, despite proceeding to take the nationally networked Simon James and Hill evening show.
In fact, the only marked changes to be found in the documents are in the Choice FM takeovers by (what is now) GCap Media – and even then the licence changes only refer to a standardised 21 hours per week of specialist music output from both stations, explaining that the “programming is primarily for a niche audience whose tastes/interests are unlikely to differ because of a North/South London location”.
All Change of Control Reviews can be read on the Ofcom website by clicking here.