Ofcom steps in to delay the launch of BBC Radio 2’s oldies spin-off

Ofcom has delayed the launch of an online only service from the BBC saying it could have a significant adverse impact on competition.

The BBC wanted to launch an extra Radio 2 “oldies” station online before getting approval to put it on DAB from a Public Interest test.

But now, following the latest RAJAR results which show online listening is bigger than AM/FM, Ofcom says the regulatory process must take place first.

Separately, Ofcom has accepted that a new Radio 1 00s service and Radio 3 chill service can go ahead on BBC Sounds.

Commercial radio body Radiocentre has welcomed the news, with CEO Matt Payton saying: “This decision represents a significant shift by Ofcom, as it is the first time that it has accepted that an online-only BBC radio service could have a material impact on competition. This stands to reason considering the rapid growth in online radio listening and the importance of online revenues.

“Obviously, we would have preferred to see all these new BBC services subject to a full Public Interest Test and regulatory process. However, this is an encouraging first step.

“Hopefully it signals a greater focus from Ofcom on BBC accountability and market impact, which is something we will also be seeking from the new government.”

A BBC spokesperson added: “We are surprised to hear commercial radio’s comments on what they understand to be Ofcom’s decision before this has been published.

“We are respectfully following the right regulatory processes in line with the Charter, Agreement and Ofcom regulation. This includes running a detailed Public Interest Test for our music extensions and having an ongoing dialogue with the music industry, Ofcom and our radio industry colleagues.

“Our plans are distinctive and measured, offering more choice and value to licence fee payers and doing so in a way only the BBC can.”

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