Ofcom is starting a review of its community radio licensing and technical policy.
As the regulator comes to the end of its third round of community radio licensing, it is seeking views on proposals to run a short, focussed fourth round of community radio licensing; and revise its technical policy to allow improvements to coverage areas for community stations, taking into account individual stations’ requirements.
The licence application and award process during Round 3 has been sporadic, with some stations being licenced within months, and others waiting almost a year to find out if they can commence broadcasting. Ofcom is seeking views on which aspects of community radio work it should be prioritising after the current round of licensing is completed.
They said: “We currently consider that inviting applications for new licences should be our first priority, followed by considering requests for improvements to coverage within the existing licensed area, and requests for extending licensed areas into an adjoining area or locality, and then planning for the future licensing of small-scale DAB services.
“We anticipate that our current (third) round of licensing will draw to a close in late spring 2017, and that licensing of small-scale DAB services may not commence before 2018. In the interim, we propose to license more analogue services, as well as consider coverage improvements for existing services.”
Ofcom has been awarding community radio licences for more than a decade, and there are now nearly 250 stations in the UK. These stations are small, not-for-profit services which bring a range of benefits to their target communities, and are run with the help of volunteers.
The consultation closes on 22 December 2016.