Ofcom has underlined the importance of local radio remaining local in the latest consultation document released today. At least 10 hours per day, including breakfast, will remain locally made on all FM local radio stations.
However, smaller stations may be able to share a large proportion of this programming (outside breakfast) with other nearby stations. Outside of locally-made programming requirements, stations may choose to broadcast network programming for a maximum of three hours a day during weekdays at day time and more at weekends.
On the importance of localness, Ofcom said they have decided to protect a minimum amount of local radio programming: [b][i]"Ofcom is not convinced by the argument that the market alone would provide this content without regulatory intervention."[/i][/b]
Ofcom’s revised proposals on local programming are subject to a further Consultation, which closes on 21 December 2007.
In addition, Formats will be simplified for analogue radio stations to bring it in line with DAB Formats. Ownership rules will also also be relaxed to allow for further consolidation within the industry.
Also today, the Department for Culture Media and Sport has announced details to set up a Digital Radio Working Group. Ofcom will play a major role in this group which has been tasked to assess the conditions needed for digital platforms to become the predominant means of delivering radio in the UK.
In the meantime, Ofcom will re-award any commercial radio licences, which are due to expire, under existing statutory legislation for a five-year period or with an expiry date of 31 December 2015 (whichever constitutes a longer period).
On community radio. Ofcom will simplify the statutory criteria for community radio licences to allow Ofcom greater flexibility in considering licence applications, and allow community radio licences to be eligible for a five-year licence extension.
In addition, community radio stations will be allowed to recognise volunteer time as part of their income.
Ofcom Chief Executive, Ed Richards, said: "Our research shows that localness is still important to listeners and we believe that this should be protected. We are confident that our revised proposals strike the right balance between easing financial pressures faced by industry and safeguarding the interests of listeners."
Andrew Harrison, chief executive of RadioCentre welcomes the news from Ofcom: “Whilst we won’t see the full document from Ofcom until this afternoon, on first inspection of the press release it would seem that Ofcom has listened to the 6 main points raised in our consultation response. We look forward to understanding the full detail in due course”.
The 'Future of Radio: The next phase' statement and further consultation are available from the Ofcom [link=http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/futureradio07/]website[/link].
Ofcom will contact each station individually over the next few months to explain how this affects them.