48/02

20 November 2002

 

The Radio Authority welcomes the publication of the new Communications Bill

The Radio Authority welcomes the publication of the new Communications Bill setting out the framework for the converged regulation of broadcasting and telecommunications.

Commenting on four topics within the Bill directly affecting radio, the Radio Authority’s Chief Executive Tony Stoller said:

Radio ownership

"The Radio Authority welcomes Government's acceptance of our proposals to remove all sector-specific limits on UK-wide ownership of ILR stations, to extend licence length from eight years to twelve years, and to make all remaining rules waveband neutral. We also welcome the adoption of the broad approach we suggested for cross-media ownership between radio and newspapers.

"While we are disappointed that Government has not adopted the formula we proposed to regulate in-area concentration of local commercial radio ownership, we welcome the decision to retain meaningful controls.

"The Authority regards guarantees of plurality of local ownership as important democratic safeguards. The provision of local news, local information, access to the airwaves for local people, as well as a range of employment opportunities and the choice of music playlists, are all important elements in a plural society which market forces alone cannot be relied upon to deliver."

Localness

"The new duty to be imposed on Ofcom, to safeguard the local character and content of local radio services, places the Radio Authority's existing approach into the context of modern regulation. We welcome the proposal which will in effect codify existing rules and requirements. We hope and expect that Ofcom will look to the station operators to give effect to these regulations largely on a co-regulatory basis, which will include a consultative approach to developing the required localness Code."

Access Radio

"We are delighted to see the green light for the development of this new third tier of local radio. The Radio Authority's experiment is proceeding well, and the full evaluation will be available early in the new year. Access Radio is set fair to be one of the major social gains introduced by the new communications legislation. This was originally proposed by the Authority in June 2000, and we are proud to have played a leading part in bringing the concept to this advanced stage."

Religious ownership

"As a pioneer in introducing religious ownership of radio services, the Radio Authority welcomes the move to allow religious bodies to hold local digital sound programme service licences, just as now applies to local analogue stations. We support Government's judgement that scarcity of spectrum militates against such ownership of national analogue services."

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Radio Authority's submissions to Government on issues relating to the Draft Communications Bill are available here.

2. The Radio Authority is responsible for licensing and regulating Independent Radio in accordance with the statutory requirements of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. It plans frequencies, awards licences, regulates programming and advertising, and plays an active role in the discussion and formulation of policies which affect the Independent Radio industry and its listeners.

 

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Revised: November 20, 2002