Government to consult on future analogue radio licences

The Government has launched a consultation on whether to extend licences for analogue commercial radio stations.

Although digital radio now accounts for around 57% of all radio listening, DCMS says analogue remains an important platform.

A number of FM and AM licences are due to expire from early 2022, including those for Classic FM and TalkSport. Ofcom does not have the power to renew these licences for a longer period under current legislation.

Therefore, the government is seeking views on whether analogue licences should be renewed for a further period and if so, how long they should be renewed for.

Digital Secretary Nicky Morgan said: “Although we now live in an increasingly digital world, there are still many people that use FM and AM radio and will want to continue listening to these services. That’s why we are seeking early views on options to renew commercial radio licences in a way that benefits both the commercial stations affected and their loyal listeners.”

The consultation will remain open until 21 February and the government plans to take forward any legislative reform at the earliest opportunity.

The government consultation contains three options:

Do nothing and allow licences to expire and be re-advertised by Ofcom;

Allow the renewal of licences for a further 5 years;

Allow the renewal of licences for a further 8 years.

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22 Comments
  1. Radio Geordie says

    There is certainly an argument for switching off the AM licences but as far as FM goes, it will still be superior to DAB until they sort out the dodgy reception when on the move.

    I know people are going to make comments about the digital switch in Norway a few years back, but I bet they’re not happy with the iffy reception.

    In the UK, I can see FM lasting for at least another 10 years.

    1. mb23 says

      The consultation paper says that option 2 is the likely decision – a further five year extension of FM/AM licences to 2027.

    2. AlMorr says

      They could take off Medium and Long Wave as soon as possible but keep FM for a bit longer

  2. Dennis says

    The government would love to kill off the AM Nd FM bands. A very short sighted and narrow-minded behaviour. A quick little earner if they get away with it but in reality neither band is very useful for anything except what they are already used for.

    Not renewing licences or using short dated licences will mean they can sell off these chunks of spectrum in the nearer future.

    A smart minded person with a view of the long term, and an understanding of radio spectrum and propagation, would fit for legislation to protect these valuable chunks of public spectrum.

    A consultation is in reality a way to make selected opinions expressed fit the decision already made.

    1. Mr Boltar says

      Indeed.

      “they can sell off these chunks of spectrum in the nearer future.”

      They can sell them off, but I’d lay serious money on pirate radio taking over FM big time if the legit stations leave. AM no one would bother with but equally 1Mhz of low frequency bandwidth is next to useless these days for anything except AM broadcasting so the government will be lucky to get a fiver for it.

      “A smart minded person with a view of the long term”

      That rules out most politicians and anyone working in Ofcom for starters.

      1. mb23 says

        The FM band (VHF 88-108 MHz) has low commercial value and would bring in very little at a spectrum auction.

        The frequencies are too low for mobile broadband and there is no obvious alternative use for them. A while back Ofcom suggested that could be used for white space devices but there was very little interest.

        The 700 MHz band currently being cleared is ideal for 5G.

  3. Dennis says

    The government would love to kill off the AM and FM bands. A very short sighted and narrow-minded behaviour. A quick little earner if they get away with it but in reality neither band is very useful for anything except what they are already used for.

    Not renewing licences or using short dated licences will mean they can sell off these chunks of spectrum in the nearer future.

    A smart minded person with a view of the long term, and an understanding of radio spectrum and propagation, would fit for legislation to protect these valuable chunks of public spectrum.

    A consultation is in reality a way to make selected opinions expressed fit the decision already made. DAB is what they want and they want more of these faux-local stations because they pay more for licences. Bring back the media ownership rules from the days before backhanders and cash in suitcase deals to get rid of them.

  4. Alan Hall says

    And what about all the community radio stations that can not afford to go onto DAB, all of them would vanish from the FM.

  5. Ray Woodward says

    It’s British commercial radio, who cares …

  6. Bill says

    Radio Caroline on 648kHz has a quickly growing audience. It shows that AM is not dead if a good product is broadcast with an adaquately powerful transmitter. Secondly, Community low powered 1Watt ERP AM is OK for Hospitals etc but suspect to night time interference if used for large towns where 10Watts ERP may be required. There is a satety issue with AM transmitters/aerials if in the wrong hands.
    Lastly, AM radio is ideal for talk radio.
    I think AM broadcast radio has a good future but no need for very high powered transmitters anymore that cover large parts of the country.

    1. Bill says

      …… for example 693, 909, 1053, 1089 & 1215 kHz

      1. Bill says

        …… One more thing… AM transmitters can use a lot of power. There is the green issue consider.

      2. David says

        1215 kHz hosts a commercial music station. The music sounds pretty damned awful being played on one of the most inferior wavebands. Time to shut down 1215kHz, plus all of the other commercal station AM wavelengths.

    2. Paul says

      What’s the source for this ‘quickly growing audience claim’ or maybe you can furnish some figures?

      1. Steven Hedley says

        Just give Caroline a national license Real Radio Real People. 648 am

  7. Steven Hedley says

    Just give Caroline a national license Real Radio Real People. 648 am

    1. mb23 says

      There is a national DAB slot available on SDL, it’s being advertised on this website.

  8. Ham radio Stuart says

    Not everyone has a DAB radio especially the elderly, and can be relied on for a for of company I would like to see the estimated amount of DAB and FM/AM radios in use in the UK.
    Many regards Stuart

  9. Martin Davies says

    Others seem to have a different view but wherever I have been, the DAB signal is always stronger than the corresponding FM signal. Due to the fact that DAB signals can more easily share frequencies I find that the FM transmitter in my home town is rated at 50 watts but the DAB has 2Kw and obviously a blasting signal. I feel there is no advantage in keeping FM but keeping AM would give an easy alternative in poor signal areas (difficult terrain) and be useful for casual outdoor listening without having to use a whip antenna.

    1. Dave says

      There no way that the licences are not going to be renewed for a extra five years for a start.
      Realistically FM switch off is a long way off. AM stations will most probably close for commershal reasons in the next few years anyway.

  10. Michael V says

    In areas where DAB/DAB+ coverage is good enough then transmitter sites can be decommissioned. Although I’m all for not renewing FM licences I think we should start with AM, like Absolute has done.

  11. Ian says

    FM sound quality is always better than DAB. In my car, DAB cuts out a couple of times on my regular 10 mile journey into London, whereas FM never does. Hoping FM sticks around, until online listening becomes the predominant UK audio platform.

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