Regulation of community radio services

  • Start: 10 June 2008
  • Status: Closed
  • End: 21 July 2008



1.1 On 10 June 2008 Ofcom published a consultation on the procedure for considering changes to a community radio station’s key commitments (“the Consultation”).

1.2 We received nine responses to the consultation most of which supported some or all of the proposed procedure, and a number of respondents offered additional suggestions. One respondent did not confirm whether they were content for their details to be made publicly available; therefore, we have treated it as a confidential response. None of the other responses were confidential.

Key commitments

1.3 Each community radio station has a set of ‘key commitments’ which forms part of its licence. The ‘key commitments’ summarise the core aims of each service and how it will meet the particular legislative requirements that apply to community radio.

1.4 The ‘key commitments’ document includes:

  • a description of the community to be served;
  • a summary of the character of service (a short description of the station’s aims);
  • a description of the programme service;
  • social gain objectives (including how the station will satisfy the mandatory social gain requirements set out in the relevant legislation, and any other social gain objectives of the service);
  • access and participation arrangements; and
  • mechanisms to ensure accountability to the target community.

Ofcom’s decision

1.5 Ofcom will implement the procedure proposed in the consultation, with the following changes:

  • Ofcom agrees with respondents that the decision on whether a proposed change is substantial or not should be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • If a proposed change is considered to be substantial, a consultation will be required. The final decision in such cases will be made by Ofcom’s Radio Licensing Committee.

Process for considering requests to change key commitments

1.6 Community radio stations can submit a request for changes using the ‘key commitments change request form’ available on the Ofcom website and at annex 1 of this document.

1.7 On receipt of a change request, Ofcom will consider it against five statutory criteria (see paragraph 2.5) and under five further additional policy criteria (see paragraph 2.9).

1.8 The first criterion in the legislation requires Ofcom to consider whether or not the requested change is one that would “substantially alter the character of the service”. Each assessment of whether a change is ‘substantial’ will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

1.9 If a proposed change is regarded as substantial, then a consultation will be conducted, and the change can be approved if it satisfies one of the remaining four statutory criteria. If a request is not considered to satisfy any of the statutory criteria, it will not be approved.

1.10 If a consultation on the proposed change is undertaken, Ofcom will publish a notice specifying the requestor’s change request form, and invite comments on the proposals under the legislative criteria. The requesting community radio station will be required to publicise its request for a change (through, for example, regular on air announcements and prominent messages on its website) and Ofcom’s consultation on this matter, including how to respond to the consultation. The consultation period will (normally) last for four weeks.

1.11 When the consultation has closed, a decision will be taken by Ofcom’s Radio Licensing Committee with reference to the responses to the consultation, the statutory criteria, and our additional policy criteria. Decisions will be published on the community radio section of Ofcom’s website, and the appropriate changes, if any, made to the licence.

1.12 If a consultation is conducted, the change can be approved only if it satisfies one of the remaining four statutory criteria. However, the Legislation gives Ofcom discretion on whether or not to accept a proposed change even if it satisfies one of the criteria.

Ensuring compliance with key commitments

1.13 This statement also explains Ofcom’s mechanisms for ensuring that stations are delivering their key commitments. These are station annual reports, the investigation of complaints, and content sampling.

1.14 If, following a complaint, or content sampling, or as a result of information received as part of community radio stations’ annual reports, Ofcom believes that a station may be failing to deliver the objectives set out in its key commitments, it will enact its key commitments compliance procedure.

1.15 This will involve Ofcom contacting the station to discuss the reasons for non-delivery and may require further correspondence setting out how the station can resolve the matter. In some circumstances, Ofcom may consider issuing a ‘yellow card’ to demonstrate the seriousness of the problem and which will only be lifted once matters have been put right. In some cases the application of a sanction (see paragraphs 4.23 - 4.25) may need to be considered.

The full document is available below

Main documents

Supporting documents

Supporting documents