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Ofcom is the radio industry’s key regulator. It issues broadcast licences; regulates content and standards; and provides Government with advice and expertise on policy issues such as digital radio or the media ownership framework.
RadioCentre deals directly with Ofcom on behalf of commercial radio, commenting upon decisions and proposals, advocating flexibility that enables stations to run their business with minimal intervention.
This response welcomes the establishment of a new procedure for investigating breaches of broadcast licences (such as formats and local news). However, it challenges the proposal to publish details of all investigations, and outlines practical problems with providing recordings to Ofcom in such a short time frame (a maximum of 5 days).
RadioCentre response to DCMS welcoming changes to Ofcom's statutory obligations. In particular we support the amendment of Section 27 (1) and (2) of the Communications Act 2003 (through powers granted in the Public Bodies Act 2011) to finally remove the burdensome duty for Ofcom to promote training and undertake equality monitoring for the radio industry.
This response welcomes the decision by Ofcom to postpone spectrum pricing, but asks for more information on the basis of the proposed cost recovery fee and how it will relate to existing fees.
In this response RadioCentre identify that due to an impending Communications Bill White Paper and an expected announcement on digital switchover, Ofcom will need to give a greater consideration to determining the switchover criterion for commercial radio stations (and its impact) than stated in the 2013-14 Annual Plan.
Alongside the continuing concerns that Local TV is not a viable venture, the RadioCentre response to Ofcom's selected locations for Local TV stations and call for mulitplex operators emphasised that if 12 year licence terms are applied to Local TV stations - as suggested - they should be to radio equivalents. It also highlighted that in areas unable to broadcast Local TV, funding should be made available to ensure better radio broadcast reach.
RadioCentre submitted a short note to Ofcom welcoming the rules and guidance on prevention of undue discrimination between broadcast advertisers, with the caveat that broadcasters will still require the flexibility to manage advertisers and their messages in different ways.
In October 2011 Jeremy Hunt wrote to Ofcom regarding the options for measuring media plurality in future. Ofcom sought views on this issue and RadioCentre submitted a short response highlighting the need for flexibility; consideration of news impact; the presence of the BBC; and use of multiple sources for news.
Ofcom was asked, as part of the Government’s Digital Radio Action Plan, to consider the basis for FM and DAB coverage measurement and technical assumptions. RadioCentre stated that it was broadly content with these planning assumptions, but it may be possible to make some adjustments at the margins to minimise cost but ensure best possible coverage.
RadioCentre expressed concern that radio does not feature in Ofcom’s proposed priorities for 2011/12, highlighting the need for action on digital radio; radio licensing; commercial references; and illegal broadcasting.
RadioCentre welcomed Ofcom’s attempts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of handling complaints, but would not want this to be at the expense of good judgement in the complaints process.
RadioCentre welcomed Ofcom’s proposal to liberalise the rules on commercial references in radio, so that sponsorship and promotional messages can be included in programming (as long as this is transparent), but argues that this could go further in some areas.
RadioCentre argued that all commercial radio licences which are not on DAB and are re-advertised should then run for a full 12 years (as allowed under the legislation), rather than the 7 years proposed by Ofcom. Longer licences will improve viability of stations and increase competition as they will be more valuable.
RadioCentre sought clarification on the nature and timing of some of the commitments expected by Ofcom, as part of the rolling programme of renewals for DAB multiplexes from the end of 2010.
RadioCentre emphasised the need for Ofcom to prioritise deregulation (on localness rules and commercial references); extend the length of analogue radio licences; and tackle illegal broadcasting.
RadioCentre supported the drive towards greater freedom for radio stations to organise how and where content is produced, including an increase in co-location and programme sharing that legislation will allow. However, ultimately stations should be measured on ‘outputs’ (content, local relevance) rather than ‘inputs’ (location, quotas).
Ofcom’s recommendation to remove the local radio ownership rules was welcomed by RadioCentre. It also proposed liberalising local cross media ownership rules as a step towards their removal.
RadioCentre response to Ofcom - Premium Rate Services (PRS) Scope Review
RadioCentre response to Ofcom - Complaints Consultation
RadioCentre response to Ofcom - Consultation on 'Audience Participation in Radio Programming'
RadioCentre argued strongly that commercial references on radio were restricted and separated unnecessarily, and should be revised radically. In future the rules should only focus on the principles of editorial integrity and transparency.
Members that are interested in a RadioCentre response to Ofcom consultations before 2009 should contact Matt Payton.