Localness guidelines

04 November 2020

Legislation requires Ofcom to secure that local commercial radio stations provide an appropriate amount of:

  • programmes including local material; and
  • locally made programmes

and to provide guidelines as to how the above requirements should be met.

These are the required guidelines. They set out Ofcom's general policy in relation to these localness requirements and how we are likely in most cases to apply them to local stations.

Ofcom considers each station on a case by case basis and how, if at all, these guidelines should apply to those stations. The extent to which local material and locally made programmes must be included in the service provided by a licensee is specified in the station's Format (and may vary by station).

Localness is not an issue for all stations, but where it is required by a station's licensed Format, it should be informed by these guidelines.

In particular, any station whose character of service requires it to provide a local service should include, as well as the level of local news specified in its Format, sufficient other local material consistent with these guidelines to deliver the required character of service.

These guidelines are not rules as such, but they outline the sort of considerations that may come into play if it becomes necessary to investigate a station's localness output. Many of these considerations are based on listener expectations.

Local material

Section 314 of the Communications Act 2003 defines 'local material' as material which is of particular interest to those living or working within (or within part of) the area or locality for which the service is provided or to particular communities living or working within that area or locality (or a part of it). It can be delivered in a number of ways (local news, local information, comment, outside broadcasts, what's-on, travel news, interviews, charity involvement, weather, airplay for local musicians, local arts and culture, sport coverage, phone-ins, listener interactivity etc.). The balance of the different elements of local material outlined is for each station to determine for itself. But, where a station is required to broadcast local material it should include at least some of these elements.

Local news provision

Because of the particular importance to citizens and consumers of local news, all stations required to broadcast local material should broadcast local news at least hourly throughout peak-time both on weekdays (breakfast and afternoon drive) and weekends (late breakfast). Those stations which have committed to an enhanced news service (see below) should broadcast local news at least hourly during daytime on weekdays (6am-7pm) and throughout peak-time (late breakfast) at weekends.

Locally-made programmes

Where a station is required to broadcast programmes including local material a suitable proportion of them (as determined by Ofcom) must be locally-made programmes.