Ofcom rejects Wireless request for BBC radio review

A request by Wireless Group Media to launch a Competition Review on BBC radio stations has been rejected by Ofcom.

On 28 September 2018, Wireless formally requested that Ofcom should initiate a BCR into how the BBC acquires sports rights for BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and Radio 4 long wave. Wireless claimed the BBC’s activities in this area harm competition in the downstream market for commercial sports radio.

Wireless also considered that the BBC’s activities are unfairly harming the ability of its own radio station, talkSPORT2, to procure rights.

The regulator said there are several reasons why it should not exercise its discretion to launch a BBC Competition Review at this time. The main reason being that of the way in which the BBC acquires radio sports rights does not appear to have changed materially since the BBC Charter came into effect in December 2016, and any consumer harm resulting from the way the BBC acquires radio sports rights seems unlikely to be material.

Ofcom said there is limited evidence to suggest talkSPORT’s ability to compete is under threat, saying the station continues to be profitable and narrow the listening reach between it and the BBC.

A Wireless spokesperson told RadioToday: “We believe in consumer choice and, as Ofcom points out, the BBC is the largest player in radio sports rights, with the deepest pockets. The playing field between commercial radio and the BBC has always been uneven and we believe the BBC’s approach to radio sports rights acquisitions should be analysed. We are reviewing Ofcom’s statement and considering our next steps.”

The full report is available here.

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