Radio regulator Ofcom has called on community radio hopefuls to submit an "expression of interest" in preparation for the much-anticipated third round of community broadcast licensing.
Ofcom says that knowing which groups are considering applying for licences will help it decide whether to offer them on a region-by-region basis or nationally.
The regulator's announcement that it is taking the first steps towards awarding more community radio licences will come as welcome news to many prospective station operators who have faced an uncertain wait following the end of the second round earlier this year.
However, many of the UK's most populated areas have been declared out of the running for FM licences by Ofcom due to a lack of frequencies. The most significant include London, Greater Manchester and Cheshire, the West and East Midlands, Glasgow and much of North East England and the South Coast. AM frequencies may still be available in these areas.
Groups interested in applying for a community licence in the third round should submit their expression of interest, which does not constitute a binding agreement to apply for a licence, to Ofcom by 1 June.