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Ofcom’s vision for Digital Britain

Following the publication of the Myers’ report for Digital Britain, Ofcom has today published its paper submitted to the Digital Britain project about the regulation of commercial radio.

While taking Myer’s idea on board, the media regulator has suggested some alternatives for the further regulation of localness on commercial radio with regard to keeping the audience happy, staying across the financial realities faced by the stations themselves and all the while maintaining the integrity of the industry’s structure as the digital dawn looms.

The first option focuses on local news, Ofcom suggesting that all stations would be called on to provide local news at least hourly during daytime with specific attention to traffic, travel news and weather during peak hours as well as a community notice board being broadcast several times a day detailing local events.

Option two focuses on a new ‘Localness Charter’, with the media regulator opting to drop the last remaining element of input regulation, in that all requirements for locally-made hours would be disregarded for stations broadcasting to a population of less than 700k. Said ‘Charter’ would hope to replace the original regulations with a licence that would better reflect each station’s needs.

And finally, Ofcom has suggested the current rules be liberalised and a new set of mini-regions created, in its summation, the media regulator reflects around half of all local FM stations could benefit from merging and that all could benefit from reduced local hours legislation.

Consequently, local content would be reduced from 10 hours to seven, though stations would still be required to provide both local news, information and what the media regulator calls softer, community-focused local content. Though, the crux of the new found freedom and relaxing of rules should mean that there will be new found flexibility regarding the production of news and perhaps crucially, the co-location of stations and programme sharing.

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