Wholesale changes to radio formats proposed

All local and regional commercial radio stations in the UK could easily change music format and network 24/7 if new proposals by the government are approved.

The Department of Culture Media and Sport believes that music requirements in radio formats – other than where they apply to national analogue licences – now serve very little purpose and simply act as a barrier to stations wanting to experiment with the types of music they want to play.

The Commercial Radio Deregulation Consultation, published today, wants to hear views on a package of changes to the current regulatory regime for commercial radio, which aim to bring the analogue and digital licensing arrangements into line. (currently the restrictions for FM/AM stations do not apply to DAB services.)

The proposals include replacing Ofcom’s obligation to secure a range and choice of radio services with a new duty to secure the provision of news and other core information. All current format requirements which stipulate where local radio stations are broadcast from, and how many hours per day can be shared, could be ripped up, provided that the local news/etc content continues to be relevant to listeners in their coverage area and that stations continue to source local news from within the existing editorial areas defined by Ofcom.

There’s also a question over whether Ofcom should continue to licence any more FM stations, instead concentrating on DAB multiplexes.

Rt Hon. Matt Hancock MP Minister of State for Digital and Culture, says: “The Government believes an examination of the regulatory framework for commercial radio is overdue and in this consultation we set out proposals how help support and strengthen the sector”

Siobhan Kenny, CEO of Radiocentre says: “Radiocentre welcomes the Government’s announcement wholeheartedly. For some time, we have been asking Government to consider updating some of the existing rules on both music output and how and where content is made. Most of the rules are over 20 years old, so effectively designed for a pre-internet age. With 45% of radio listening now on digital platforms and new competition from streaming services, it is high time legislation caught up. The times have already changed so this is excellent news.”

The Government’s consultation runs until 8 May 2017. Radiocentre, on behalf of DCMS, will shortly be announcing a series of meetings across the UK, providing a forum for discussion of the proposals.

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