THE RADIO AUTHORITY : ITS LICENCES AND LICENSING PROCEDURES
Under the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996, the Radio Authority is tasked with licensing and regulating all Independent Radio services. These comprise national, local, restricted services, satellite, cable, national FM subcarrier services, and terrestrial Digital Audio Broadcasting services. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport appoints Members to head the Radio Authority for a period of five years. The Authority Members meet on a monthly basis to make key policy decisions, including the award of licences.
Applicants for a Radio Authority licence must be eligible to hold a licence under the terms of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. This means that applicants must not be disqualified persons or have convictions in the last five years for illegal broadcasting (anyone convicted of illegal broadcasting is banned from broadcasting for 5 years). Please refer to the Authority's Notes of Guidance on Ownership for full details.
The radio spectrum (the frequencies on which services are broadcast) is a scarce resource; therefore, the government has empowered the Radio Authority to plan and manage its use for the commercial radio sector. This is to ensure that the relevant frequencies are used efficiently and effectively. The Authority participates fully in the overall process of spectrum management, under the auspices of the government's Radiocommunications Agency, to protect UK commercial radio services from interference from other services (broadcast and otherwise) and vice versa.
There are more people who want to broadcast on a 'permanent' (eight year) basis than there are frequencies available. Successive governments, therefore, have concluded that the fairest way to decide who can broadcast on a 'permanent' basis is to hold a competition which is open to anyone who wants to apply for the licence. Although new digital technology will make more efficient use of the spectrum available (more services will be able to squeeze into less space), demand will still outstrip supply for the foreseeable future in most regions of the UK. Therefore, licences for the multiplexers who will co-ordinate digital services will be advertised in a similar way to analogue licences.
The information that follows describes the types of Radio Authority licences available, and gives a brief explanation on how to apply for a licence. For more detailed information please refer to the relevant guidance note, available from the Authority's Press and Information Office upon request.
- whether there is evidence that there is a serious potential applicant for the licence;
- whether there is a suitable frequency available (one that does not interfere with, or suffer excessive interference from, other services and can achieve the appropriate coverage for the area intended to be served);
- the other stations which are already broadcasting in the vicinity. The Authority will decide whether another service could be introduced into that area, bearing in mind that revenue is mainly obtained through advertising and sponsorship.
- whether the proposed service will cater for the tastes and interests of the local community. When advertising a licence, the Authority asks for comments from the public in the area concerned to get an idea of their local needs;
- whether the proposed service will broaden listener choice;
- whether the applicant has the appropriate financial resources to sustain the service for the eight year licence period;
- and, if the licence is being applied for by an existing licensee, broadcasting in the same area on the same waveband, whether such an award would be in the public interest (see Radio Authority's notes on the radio-specific public interest test).
For more information, please refer to the Authority's Notes of Guidance for Local Licences.
Short-term Restricted Service Licences
Long-term Restricted Service Licences
Cable and Satellite Licences
For further information, please refer to the Authority's guidance note on Cable and Satellite Licences.
Digital Radio Licences
Digital multiplex licences will be awarded for a period of twelve years. Sound Programme Service Licences are indefinite. The three national stations currently broadcasting on analogue have guaranteed places on the national digital multiplex. If a national radio station takes up this option, it can benefit from a new analogue licence automatically extended for a further eight years. Local radio stations do not have guaranteed slots on local digital radio multiplexes but if a local station successfully secures a place on a local digital multiplex it too will automatically have its analogue licence renewed for a further eight years.
Addition Service Licence
The Authority has a number of codes to which each of its licensees must adhere.
The Radio Authority is funded solely by the licence fees paid to it by each of its licensees and by application fees. For a current tariff table, or other information, please contact the Authority's Press & Information Office.
This fact sheet is for general information only. Any prospective applicant should ensure that he/she reads the appropriate Notes of Guidance before applying for a licence.