A guide to community radio

23 September 2016

Everything you need to know about community radio, from who can hold a licence to how to apply.

What are community radio stations?

Community radio stations typically cover a small geographical area with a coverage radius of up to 5km and run on a not-for-profit basis. They can cater for whole communities or for different areas of interest - such as a particular ethnic group, age group or interest group. Community radio stations reflect a diverse mix of cultures and interests. For example, you can listen to stations which cater for urban or experimental music, while others are aimed at younger people, religious communities or the Armed Forces and their families.

A community radio station's programmes will reflect the needs and interests of its audience. But rather than ‘talk at' its community, the station should become a central part of it. This means creating direct links with its listeners, offering training opportunities and making sure that members of the community can take part in how the station is run. Community stations typically provide 90 hours of original and distinctive output a week, mostly locally produced. On average, stations operate with 79 volunteers who together give around 186 hours of their time a week.

Individuals are not entitled to hold a licence. We only offer licences to registered companies (or equivalent bodies such as those created by statute). No company or organisation can hold more than one community radio licence. There are also restrictions on ownership between commercial radio and community radio.

It means that any profits generated by the community radio station cannot be given to shareholders, for example, or used to benefit the people running the service. However, this requirement does not prevent stations from paying staff. Any profit or surplus must be used for securing or improving the future provision of the radio service or for delivering social gain/ community benefits to the station's target community.

Each station can carry advertising and sponsorship, although there are rules on how much income they can take from these sources (income above £15,000 from advertising and sponsorship must be balanced with additional income from other sources). A small number of community stations – where they overlap with small commercial services whose studios are not co-located with other stations – are restricted to a maximum of £15,000 from advertising and sponsorship.

Ofcom can only accept applications for community radio licences as part of a licensing round, and not at any other time. Ofcom will usually advertise a licensing round and invite applications by posting information on its website. See below for more information on the latest licensing round.

To be kept informed about community radio, including notification of when we invite applications, as well as other broadcasting issues, sign up for our broadcasting email updates

Ofcom announced the latest round in April 2011. Applications for new licences open on a region by region basis.

Potential applicants should note that there are large parts of the UK where there are no suitable FM frequencies available. This is mainly in major towns and cities.


Nation or region

Expected date for inviting applications

Closing date for applications


South west England and Wales

Friday 1 April 2011

Thursday 21 July 2011



Wednesday 16 November 2011

Tuesday 14 February 2012


Northern Ireland

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Thursday 7 June 2012


Northeast England, Cumbria and North Yorkshire

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Tuesday 29 January 2013


West and South Yorkshire, Humberside and north west of England

26 June 2013

15 October 2013


Bailiwick of Guernsey

Tuesday 3 December 2013

Wednesday 26 March 2014


West Midlands and East Midlands

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Tuesday 24 June 2014


East of England (with Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes)

24 September 2014

16 December 2014


South east England (outside the M25)

30 June 2015

Tuesday 20 October 2015


Greater London and other areas within the M25

6 July 2016

Tuesday 25 October 2016


Medium wave (AM) band, for locations anywhere throughout the UK, excluding London and areas within the M25

6 July 2016

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Applications will be made available for public inspection on the Ofcom website. Shortly after the closing date for applications, we will announce the number of applications received, and subsequently we will publish on the Ofcom website all parts of the applications received other than those parts we agree to keep confidential. The published parts will include the name(s), address(es) and daytime telephone number(s) of individuals nominated to handle any press or public enquires on behalf of the applicant.

Licences for each region are awarded in batches on a rolling basis. If the number of applications received for any region is high, consideration of all applications is likely to take a number of months. Successful groups are required to start broadcasting within two years of the licence award.

The licence will last for up to five years at a time. Community radio licensees may then apply to Ofcom to extend their licences for two further periods of up to five years each.