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Commercial radio formats to be scrapped

The government says it will bring in new rules on commercial radio formats as soon as possible – meaning stations will be free to change their music format without Ofcom approval.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said the changes would give commercial radio stations the ‘freedom to adapt and compete with online stations’.

Analogue licence holders would no longer be required to play a particular genre of music, and there will be no requirement for Ofcom to approve changes to programme formats.

All current format requirements which stipulate where local radio stations are broadcast from, and how many hours per day can be shared, would be scrapped. But the government says strong requirements will remain on commercial stations to provide national and local news, travel information and weather.

Ministers also say the legislation will include permission for Ofcom to license overseas stations on DAB multiplexes in the UK. At the moment, only UK-based stations are permitted. Stations from the Republic of Ireland will get the go-ahead to transmit in the UK first, followed by licensed stations from other EU countries.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: “The UK’s thriving commercial radio sector is highly valued by local communities across the country. As radio moves closer to a digital switchover we need to give them the freedom to adapt and compete with online stations. Removing these unnecessary burdens means commercial radio stations will have the freedom and flexibility to respond to their local audience and give listeners greater choice.”

Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre said: “Radiocentre welcomes the Government’s plans for deregulation of the pre-internet age rules that govern commercial radio. The new rules will give stations greater flexibility in how they operate, unlocking the potential of commercial radio and giving listeners even more choice from their favourite radio brands. We now look forward to the Government enacting these sensible changes at the earliest opportunity.”

Mims Davies MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Commercial Radio, said: “It is great news that the Government has published its response to the commercial radio deregulation consultation. I agree with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport that deregulation is a necessary and positive step for the industry. I look forward to working with the APPG to ensure that legislation is introduced as soon as possible to support our local stations and ensure they continue to build on their current successes. This is a really important industry and I am pleased the Government is giving it the support it needs.”

In its full response to the consultation which ran earlier this year on commercial radio deregulation, the government says it will now work to bring in the changes: “The next phase is for DCMS to begin the detailed work to develop the new legislative structure and to bring forward legislation prior to the analogue licenses coming up for renewal in 2022. However, the legislation that underpins commercial radio licensing is complex and this is a major undertaking. Legislation will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows. In the meantime, the Government is open to and would support any moves by Ofcom to consider, in the light of the consultation responses received, whether there is scope to changes to its rules and guidance in lieu of longer-term reform.”

On the removal of localness requirements from licences, the government says in its response to the consultation: “We have carefully considered the views on the potential impact that reforming localness requirements could have on local production and media jobs particularly outside London. We believe that the current localness requirements set out under s.314 of the Communications Act 2003 are now too onerous and are acting to constrain the commercial radio industry from being able to rationalise their production base, making it harder to compete effectively against new online services. With pressures likely to grow on commercial radio in the next 10 years, and with no localness requirements on DAB-only commercial services, we believe the benefits of relaxing the local production requirements outweigh the disadvantages. Whilst we very much value commercial stations that want to continue broadcasting locally we don’t think that the current regulatory requirements which are prescriptive on commercial radio need to be as restrictive as they are at present.”

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7 Comments
  1. Joe Smith says

    “Digital Minister Matt Hancock said: “The UK’s thriving commercial radio sector is highly valued by local communities across the country.””

    It seem the Digital Minister hasn’t a clue what he is talking about.

  2. Steve Caddy says

    Tail wags dog. Again.

  3. Martin says

    Too late commercial radio, I avoid you like the plague, give me internet radio anyday

  4. Dave Marshall says

    We all knew it was coming – this is surely the final nail in the coffin for I.L.R. In reality, of course, most of us now choose to access breaking local and national news stories on mobile screens. And now it’s social media, and email, that mums and dads turn to for news of school and road closures during the dark, freezing winter mornings. .
    Sadly, although I wish them well, I doubt that Community Radio, in its present form, will ever become the new ‘local radio’.
    On ‘national’ commercial music stations, listener loyalty has now surely become of little importance , as programmers, with an eye on cutting costs, know they can ensure a respectable number of ticks in Rajar diaries by routinely booking nationally known ‘ personalities’ to pre record links for playback between tracks from an ever decreasing playlist of ‘safe’ songs. So does this leave the door open in your area for an ambitious new broadcaster who guarantees local output 24/7, live phone in competitions, presenters who can identify with you, and a truly local and visible presence?
    Additionally, is there really a gap there waiting to be filled and is such an ambitious plan now commercially viable?
    After 40 continuous years ‘on air’ having fun on commercial radio, I really do regret the passing of I.L.R. and I provide more questions than answers but nothing is forever.

  5. Michael from Hitchin says

    Oh well here we go then. This simply hands it all on a plate to the commercial radio sector. Its easy to deduce, this gives the green light to local commercial radio to continue broadcasting the same old, same old, heard it all before, boring, bland output. Most of those who run these stations’ are the one’s who keep calling for abolition of the license fee; which they know represents good value for money. At least with BBC local radio you get variety, including their excellent sports’ coverage, specialist music and debate. As the BBC DG recently announced BBC LR will no longer have to network ( something invented by commercial radio a while back ) weekdays, between the hours of 7pm-10pm weekdays, like they do at present. I see Union Jack radio are planning to launch another service. Erm, I wonder what that will be. Another boring, bland 1980’s radio format, Rock Music and Sport ( not that I’m knocking rock music of course, always liked Kate Bush, Alan Parsons Project, Genesis and Annie Lennox ) or a Today’s Best Music format?. I always knew Ofcom would eventually annihilate commercial radio!.

  6. Stuart says

    The only commercial radio I listen to these days is Planet Rock and Absolute Classic Rock but if I did listen to the likes of my local Heart and Capital stations as well as Radio City, Signal 1 and Free Radio then I would want less current chart music played and more slightly older music played but not hits that get played lots and lots of times but instead lesser well-known hits that weren’t as big a hit as other songs.

    Also, there should be less shared hours of the same playlist and presenter. I’ve heard the same playlist on both Radio City and Rock FM before and there really should be separate playlists and presenters from at least 6am to 7pm or 10pm.

  7. Duncan Campbell says

    So yet again this Tory government what to cut local commerical radio programming in Scotland why don’t they sort out there own state of affairs before poking there nose into commercial radio there has been cut backs before any more will signal the end we shouldn’t let these department for culture media and sport get away with this local programming was cut from 10 hours to 7 hours 2010 deregulation local commercial radio suck as Clyde forth day northsound mfr radio borders they are Scottish stations wanting to take there brand and make it English no thank u

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