A consultation looking at the funding rules that apply to community radio has been launched.
Speaking in the house of commons, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “We want to consider how we can relax some of the rules and restrictions on how community radio is funded. It is a consultation that the community radio community has long called for. We think that restrictions are still needed to preserve the distinctive characteristics of community radio and ensure that small commercial radio stations are not adversely affected.
“It will enable us to assess the extent to which rules can be relaxed to give community radio more scope to raise funding, and to help the sector’s long-term sustainability.”
In the same session, Iain Stewart, MP for Milton Keynes speaking on behalf of MKFM complained that the timetable for community radio in South East has been pushed back six months. He suggested a station such as MKFM should be able to pay a premium price tag “perhaps in the region of £10,000” to get fast-tracked to being able to apply for a licence.
“If it and other stations in a similar situation did that, it might allow Ofcom to take on additional staff to assess the applications in a more timely fashion,” he said.
Ed Vaizey replied: “If the number of applications received for any region is high, consideration of all applications can take longer than anticipated, as was the case in autumn 2013, so that Ofcom had little choice but to revise its timetable for inviting community radio applications in its current round.
“I am not ready to fast-track licences for people who are prepared to pay more, because that would still involve a lack of co-ordination. At the moment, the process is fair with a very low licence fee for anyone who wants to run a community radio station, although I want to look at whether we can speed the process up.”
Speaking about MKFM, Iain Stewart continued: “The station is now broadcasting on DAB, which is an important step forward, but it is not ideal. It has a cost implication. I am told by MKFM that the transmission cost is in the region of £50,000 a year, which is a significant sum for a community radio station to bear. Moreover, not everyone has a DAB radio.”