Radio deregulation consultation begins at Ofcom


Ofcom is wanting to hear from anyone with a view on its proposals to drastically reduce regulation on radio.

The two main areas of the proposals are larger “Approved Areas” and taking away a requirement to provide a local breakfast show.

Currently, most stations need to provide a minimum of seven hours a day of locally made programmes, including breakfast.

Under the new proposals, stations will need to provide either three hours of locally made programmes between 6am and 7pm weekdays if they have an hourly news bulletin, or six hours of locally made programming between 6am and 7pm weekdays if they only provide hourly bulletins during peak times.

This move takes away the requirement to have a locally-made breakfast show on a local radio station, and the requirement to have any locally-made programmes at all at the weekend.

Also, the regulator is proposing to allow local commercial radio stations greater flexibility in how and where they produce their programmes, but wanting to ensure that listeners’ expectations for high quality local news and other content continue to be met.

The current guidelines were last substantially revised in 2010 which introduced “Approved Areas” in which neighbouring stations could co-location. Under the new proposals, the Approved Areas would be merged to almost match the former ITV regions.

There are currently 31 “Approved Areas”. Under new rules there would be 12. The two maps below highlight the current and the new approved areas, followed by just the new.

The proposals will allow commercial radio stations to share all output for stations in the new approved areas.

Since the current guidelines came into effect in 2010, Ofcom has agreed 416 Format change requests from analogue local commercial radio stations to share studios (‘colocation) and/or share local programming hours (‘programme sharing’). The majority of these requests were for co-location or programme sharing arrangements taking place within the areas approved by Ofcom in 2010.

Ofcom is now inviting views on the proposals, which must be submitted by 3 August 2018.

Comments are open. Let us know your thoughts below.

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  2. Adrian says

    Presumably local shows will go the same way as happened on some Medium wave outlets some years back-shunted into an early afternoon slot with barely any real local content apart from voicetracking from a regional studio.Will someone please explain to me (a) What is the point of a local station that doesn’t provide a local show at the time most people are listening in the morning rush or indeed doesn’t have to provide any local,programmes at the weekend?.(b) Why is there such a huge area proposed which can share programming all the way from the Sussex/Hampshire border to Land’s End?.(c) Local news on the hour is currently only often a minute or so composed of few stories which often just have a few stories quite a few of which do no more than add local place names or counties to a national story.If this is fine by Ofcom why would anybody want to take-up the option of six hours of local programmes plus local news only at breakfast and drive when they can just do three hours with hourly bulletins of often very limited local content?.

    national story-if this is to continue why would anybody want to take-up the option of six hours local programmes with news at only breakfast and drive when you can just have three hours with these minuscule often barely local headlines each hour?.

  3. Jason says

    To me this a consultation on a potential green light for yet more networked programming (but hey the ads are split so at least they’re local!), more jobs lost and an accelerated decline in the industry. I have to wonder who exactly is pulling Ofcom’s strings!

  4. Radio Geordie says

    I’m with Adrian on this one with regards to the way Ofcom have determined its regions.
    Home Counties gets BBC East & ITV Anglia not BBC South & ITV Merdian.
    Solent likewise gets BBC South & ITV Meridian not ITV South West & BBC South West or BBC West.
    As to why there is a South West region, Ofcom allowed ITV to merge the West Country & HTV West franchises into one service years ago.
    Before long, Community Radio will be the only local radio left.

  5. Lee says

    Oh great! More during down of commercial of it isn’t local anymore, just ask Global and Bauer. Now wonder Radio Centre are in favour of these proposals. I wonder who are two of the biggest EST supporters of radio centre? Could it be Global and Bauer?

  6. Sj says

    I don’t think listeners care if they get a regional Capital drive show, for example. Why force big commercial radio groups to produce regional shows when local content is available from the BBC and community radio? It just doesn’t seem like something that needs regulating anymore, which I know will anger many Radio Today readers! But time and technology moves on. I’ve been hugely critical of Global over the years but their big brands are successful with huge audiences. On what grounds should Ofcom intervene?

  7. Adrian says

    What a lot of people find unfair I think is that yes times have changed but the licences were originally awarded on the basis of important commitments.The FM band is now in many areas filled with umpteen Hearts and Capitals where there were individual local stations.Surely rather than just agreeing to dropping all the local shows and providing scant news it would be fairer to advertise all the licences again and award them to the best applicant-otherwise what incentive is there to provide a decent service?.Companies who were denied a licence because they were thought to have been over ambitious or even not providing a full or varied enough service would at least have another chance to apply-is it fair that the big companies should have a monopoly for ever whatever they put out?.

  8. Lee says

    Totally agree Adrian.

  9. Robin says

    The final nail in the coffin for local radio. Rest in peace!

  10. Sj says

    The big companies have the scale and clout to provide the glossy brands that many millions of people choose to listen to. It’s not a monopoly because the BBC, community and some smaller independent stations are already providing lots of local programming… and, incidentally, often pulling in far smaller reach. If there was enough appetite for more local programming and news then these big companies would be doing it. So, readvertise and give all their licensees to smaller independent companies if you like. But for what purpose exactly?

  11. Nathan Pierce says

    I agree as well, I think there should be MORE local show’s on weekdays, let’s say minimum of 12 hours, that’s why we call it a LOCAL radio station to talk about LOCAL things in our LOCAL area. Heart Radio is just a joke now, they repeat the same song’s at least every 3 hours, it gets boring. In my opinion, shut down Heart to open more local radio station’s, for example in Northamptonshire a radio sration called Connect FM cam expand by shutting Heart down and use the FM frequencies to broadcasts there. It’s really not working out for any National/local radio station across the UK.

    1. sj says

      Heart reaches 26% of people in Northamptonshire whereas Connect has an 11% reach in its part of the county. So why would you replace Heart there with a far less successful station? I agree with you about Heart being dull and repetitive but plenty of people disagree and don’t care that it’s quasi-national.

      1. Adrian says

        I didn’t mean you would replace all the licences with smaller companies.I simply think that it would be fairer to give everybody a chance again rather than just accept as inevitable the further decline of local services.If you have no competition for licences why should the incumbent make any sort of effort?.In the past when licences came up for renewal it often mean that companies would enhance their output in terms of news provision or a greater range of programmes in order to retain the licence I think the current system just makes them complacent about whatever they do.As you say Northants has Connect and there would be no point in duplicating that .Yes,maybe the big companies would still win quite a nunnery of licences but if you don’t give them any competition then they don’t need to worry about the quality of their output.If I had a company that was planning to water down it’s product I would expect to have competition from elsewhere which would no doubt make me think very hard before doing so!.

  12. Mike Rose says

    Nice that views are being invited but they’ll bot be taken on board as business talks! No point in getting sentimental guys, it’s going to happen whether we like it or not.

    1. Adrian says

      You are right of course,and usually the amount of replies to these consultations is in single figures!,still a great shame though!.

      1. Mike Rose says

        It’s my reckoning that Global will end up owning every commercial license in the country allowing them to relay all of their services on transmitters where they cannot be currently heard. We’ll be back to the BBC and one commercial provider per “area”…like it was in the beginning…and if it had stayed that way in the first place we wouldn’t have had the complicated mess of the last 20 odd years. The late Gerald Kaufman, and others who opposed the green paper of the late 80s were right. They said the big boys would elbow out the small boys. Did anyone listen? No. If things had stopped after split frequencies maybe things would have stayed that way…not the little stations in between who can’t or struggle to survive because of competition for airtime in places like…Macclesfield…who ended up with 4 local stations too choose from in the early days…why? It’s too many in one area. Not that any of it matters now because of multi platform where you can hear anything anywhere.

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